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When exploring the subterranean realms of the genre we call “death metal” one finds a lot of gems, most of them unpolished and likely never to see the light of day. Indeed, these realms are inhabited by a loyal, chosen few who are dedicated to the finding of such gems, searching the caverns for whatever they can find. Albums, LP's, EP's, demos, live recording, splits. Everything goes. One of the most populated caves within this unholy underground land is that of Swedish Death Metal. Anyone with a basic knowledge of Old School Death Metal knows what Sweden is all about. Gut ripping chainsaw guitar tones, primitive neanderthal vocal deliveries, beastly animal like drumming, gurgling distorted bass-lines all blend in together seamlessly and deliver a type of death metal that is so simple, yet so addictive. Technicality is shunned for pure brutality. And with this we come to one of the many gems of Swedish Death Metal – Altar's No Flesh Shall Be Spared demo.
Entering the fray in 1991, this demo differs a bit from its counterparts and their interpretation of the style, while being completely within the confines of Swedish Death Metal. The chunky, Baphomet-esque riffs hack away at your limbs with utmost glee, as the demo lives up to its promise of not sparing any flesh. Baphomet is not the only reference point for this mind you, Bolt Thrower and Autopsy influences collide in equal parts and the result is some headbang-friendly compositional randomness – inherently present, however, in most if not all Swedeath. The drumwork smoothly transitions from grooves to blasts to d-beats to crushing double bass assaults, sometimes giving you a different beat than what you would expect on a riff that further gives the band a feel of its own independent of other Swedeath bands. Everything is here, the bass provides the low end as expected and the icing on the cake if of course the ghastly vocal delivery ultimately ensures that every moment is just quite simply downright fun as fuck, and disgustingly filthy at the same time – it's like watching a group of girls have a mudfight.
In terms of production, this is pretty solid for what is supposedly a demo. The clarity here stands at contrast with other demos of the time, which gives it an even more crushing vibe. The classic Swedeath demo murkiness remains a standpoint of the production though the chainsaw sound is lacking, instead containing more of a British – Benediction, Bolt Thrower – type rounded and thick guitar tone. Though, there is nothing wrong with that! Overall this is how DM is supposed to sound. Like something out of a classic horror flick, not something out of someone's arse - which is how most modern death metal production sounds like to be fairly honest, a mass congregation of farts intermingling with each other and creating one massive uber-fart.... but that is another story. My only gripe with the production is that the snare sound becomes a bit annoying at times but for a demo it's very cool how the mixing is done in a way that makes everything very clear.
There's not a whole of negatives here in all honesty. They seemed about ready to release an album – a badass one at that. However, compositionally they don't come off as being as mature as Entombed or Grave – they seem more interested in delivering one headbanging riff after another and being as unpredictable as possible than following any strict way of doing things. However it becomes clear after a few listens that they at the time pershaps were lacking the maturity to piece all the ingredients together. None of the songs on the demo are instantly memorable, though they do grab your attention and make you want to give it spin after spin until the songs are embedded inside your brain. But as I have stated before, this is massively fun stuff. Recommended for fans of Swedish Death Metal and also fans of Baphomet and Bolt Thrower. 8/ 10 ! I envy anyone who saw this band live back in the day.
I could speak for hours on the subject of old Swedish death metal scene. I absolutely love it and surely can say it’s my best time, scene and sound among all metal subgenres ever. No denying, Sweden has spawned so many great bands at the time between 1988-93 like no other place in the world and I just happen to like most of them. I don’t care if the band X sounded like Entombed and band Y had a song like Dismember, I loved it anyway. Part of my Swedish fascination is about the fact that it hides many bands, which have never been popular, never released a full length or sometimes not even 7”EP – but despite that, their music is a classic and killer stuff. So many bands stayed underground and split up without a good contract, even though their music was just a damn crushing death metal machine, that it’s a shame! Just think of Nirvana 2002, Adversary and Evocation... And Altar!!!!!!!! Although Altar did appear on a split CD / LP, but they never really got that much attention and didn’t put the full length out. Were they any worse than some of their countrymen?? No, not at all. It may have been a matter of unluckiness or simply the scene at the time didn’t need another death metal band from Sweden, especially when black metal warriors started the arsons and murders – and occasionally also released some cult albums ha, ha!
“No Flesh Shall Be Spared” is great example of a demo that survived the test of time and even 20 years later it is a blast (from the past)! It’s been recorded in 1991, so at the moment I’m writing this review it’s been 20 years since then. But the sound / songs from it are still able to seriously kick arses of many metal maniacs. It definitely does kick mine! There are four brilliant death metal songs that take influence from both the European as well as the American schools of death metal gut ripping. Some stunning riffs and catchy tunes are accompanied by US brutality and it’s obvious these guys loved Benediction and Massacre, (old) Death and Autopsy equally to Entombed. Many riffs seem like they’re totally familiar to me, like I’ve heard them before, but I somehow cannot recognise the band that could have been playing it earlier – especially the opening motif for the title song sounds like a “déjà vu” to me! Damn, I just know it, every tune and drum part in it, but I don’t know what other band could have been playing it (Baphomet maybe??)! Especially “Severed On the Attic” is Autopsy-influenced track, with its awesome riffs and gory atmosphere and some faster riffage in the middle part. Anyway, all songs are played rather in catchy mid tempos, based on simple but moshable riffs, while to vocals are really guttural and creepy. With occasional horror intros (from “Hellraiser” for instance) altogether we get a great portion of gory death metal in old school vein, with great sound and songs. I just cannot say anything wrong about that demo. So what that it isn’t innovative and original? It’s got the feeling, great riffs and dark atmosphere. I love to listen to it and that’s what matters most. Recommended cult stuff!
Coming from Sweden, the band known as Altar, and the Dutch death-thrashers with the same name, may have thought their moniker fitted the music they played. However, the similarities with Sweden-based Altar and the death-thrash scene end there. Altar’s four-tracker entitled ‘No Flesh…’ is a piece of average death metal that unfortunately sounds like most Euro bands. Even though the tape is not a great record, the music found here has a kind of flexible sound which allows each instrument to be equally heard. The vocals are low-pitched and boring and there are moments when the band just concentrates in prolonged instrumental sections. The guitar department is decent but the melody factor is missing. In fact, the title track boasts more involved arrangements that make it the demo tape’s spearhead. In a few words, the Altar’s sound does not convey much emotion or intimidation. It almost sound like any ‘90s death metal band devoid of intensity and, consequently, leaving ‘No Flesh…’ as a flavorless and forgettable attempt.