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Altar of Oblivion is a five-piece band from Aalborg, Denmark. They've been around since 2005 releasing a demo in 2007 and this debut, "Sinews of Anguish" in 2009. I knew about this band before this album, but I never got a listen to them. Suddenly they released this full length, the album cover was pretty appealing along the fact that the band is labeled "doom metal", so I went on to listen what this is all about.
"Sinews of Anguish" is a socalled "Epic doom metal" album, as labeled here on metal-archives, it goes pretty much hand in hand with the vocals being opera-like and the music being slow, but atmospheric. The album is about the second world war, along with that fact and again the album cover you will be placed somewhere in the beginning of the 40s in your mind. That's what happened to me, at least. The music is pretty slow, but it's doom. The riffing is melodic containing small solos during the music between verses. The riffing can go from slow tempo in the first song "The Final Plague" to faster riffing in the song "Behind the Veil of Nights" for instance.
The vocals are clean and opera-like as earlier mentioned, but will at times be a bit more aggressive, and I'd like to compare those to mighty Rob Halford. The vocals are filling a lot here, they manage to set the mood, usually pretty depressing but still keeping the epic atmosphere. The performance by Mik Mentor is really great.
Drumming here is regular doom drumming, mighty, but clear. The bass is not very audible during this album, the mighty vocals and riffing steals the picture. The production of the album is clear, I am not missing out much, except for the bass, but they might have turned off the sound here perhaps. It can be heard in "A Retreat into Delusions" though, along with Miks vocals and a flute also being used as the only instruments.
This album was a nice surprise for me, it was about time there would come something good from Denmark again also. Check this out if you are into epic doom or just doom, it's a nice journey back to the second world war.
"Emerging from the skies of revulsion
Causing hurt and misery
Victorious powers become ever stronger
Haunted by suspicion".
Altar Of Oblivion, a brand new Dutch band is creating such ripples in the metal scene and utter awe, the likes of which have been dismissed as ‘not possible anymore’, especially in the doom metal scene. The 4 man band released their maiden release last year entitled ‘Sinews Of Anguish’. Comprising of 8 tracks and lasting almost an hour, AOO plays a mixture of 80’s inspired heavy metal mixed with a huge dose of epic doom metal.
Sinews Of Anguish is concept album, and the first of a trilogy to be put out by the band based on the First World War and the entire story is narrated from the perspective of a young ambitious soldier, who is part of this ongoing war. As for the music it comprises of heavy, chunky riffs which can be appreciated only because of the tremendous vocalist who single handedly pushes the band onto a much higher level. The vocalist is the biggest reason for the success of the band. He carries the band, the music on his back and surges to such levels with his heavily emotive voice and massive baritone that one cannot but isolate him from the rest of the band and talk about him separately.
I am not trying to minimize the efforts, contribution or musical craftsmanship of the other band members in anyway. The axe attack following the majestic voice is the best back up one can expect for the band. The riffs compliment the band perfectly and go extremely well with the type of music the band was trying to achieve, which in the end they did and that too extremely well. The riffs are simple and straightforward. The solos are extremely well composed and feel neither too short nor too long, doing just enough to keep the listener’s attention towards the band throughout the length of the band. The drummer tries nothing fancy, just does what is required by him in this form of music perfectly, accurate placing of simple drum beats to amplify the guitar work and act as a support to the whole band.
The tracks are varied with the lengths lasting from 5 minutes to 11 minutes. Bludgeoning riffs, virtuosic solos and epic vocals seem to be the order of the day and each track consists of these. As soon as you start listening to the first notes of “The Final Pledge” you know this is not ‘just one of those’ modern doom bands. You’re in for a ride and strapped in tight. “Wrapped In Ruins” and “Beyond the veil of nights” carry forward the momentum of the first track with stupendous craftsmanship. And then you’re hit with the most brilliant composition of the album, “Pinnacle Of Power”. Variations. Tons of them. This track is to modern doom what Morbid Saint’s bitch of a track ‘ Assassin’ was back in the year. Following this is the ballad of the album, “A Retreat Into Delusions”, something the listener was not expecting after the aural assault the listener has been subjected to for the past half an hour. If the band has a brilliant first side the second side isn’t far behind or perhaps at times even better. Both “Casus Belli” and “Stainless Steel” are brilliant compositions and are backed up by the epic finale of the album, the 11 minute long title track. The final track is a bit slower but has heavier riffs, more variations and is a brilliant way to end a very brilliant debut.
Each track on this release is an epic in its own sense. The listener never loses attention throughout the length of the album during any track or any second. It’s well produced but there is a lot of room for improvement in that department. It has some great lyrics as well and creates the perfect atmosphere at times which ranges from Majestic, destructive, slow, fast, emotive, hopeful and despairing; this release captures all the emotions of war in every aspect. What sets this band apart is that apart from the handful of very good doom band today is the fact that when most bands today play old school doom metal, this band not only does that but takes the listener back to the glorious days of 80’s heavy metal when everything about was metal was right. No synthesizers. No breakdowns. No inconsistency. No female vocals and absolutely no cheese whatsoever!
This is one of the decades best doom release and the top position is challenged only by Pagan Altar’s aptly titled “Mythical And Magical” , Hour Of 13’s self titled debut and this year’s “For Mircalla” by Briton Rites.
The band is scheduled to release their follow up album later this year, entitled “Grand Gesture Of Defiance” but I don’t expect it to be remotely as good as this one, the reason being the band’s Myspace page states that the new album will contain shorter tracks and the band, with the motive of ‘experimentation’ will incorporate mellotron and synthesizer sections into their brand of music which is possibly the worst decision the band could take, or could it? If there is a band that exists today possessing the capability to stun its listener, it is this band.
Sinews of Anguish is the debut from a Danish band performing traditional doom metal in the vein of Candlemass, Memory Garden, and other bands which combine the traditional grooves of Sabbath and St. Vitus with a modern, crushing production. The riffing on the album is pretty good; simple and effective, much like Candlemass, but I did find myself struggling at first with the vocalist (Mik Mentor) on this album. He has two styles which he can shift between. The first is a manly, gothic croon which takes some getting used to, but actually does fit the music. The other is a more cutting, nasal shift which is closer to Ozzy Osbourne. The latter style isn't bad, but thankfully occurs only rarely on the album (perhaps I am misunderstanding and this is a separate vocalist...?)
Once you get adjusted to Mentor's tone (which is, fair to say, original) you can start to settle into the band's traditional doom-laced metal. The riffs are never quite mindblowing, but they are concise, and the simple lead melodies grace them with a forward momentum throughout the hour of music here. "The Final Pledge" is a pumper of an opening track, the riffs recall Epicus Doomicus Metallicus but with more of an atmospheric synth presence. Other tracks like "Behind the Veil of Nights", "Stainless Steel" and "Casus Belli" rock hard and old school. There are softer moments like the operatic "A Retreat Into Delusions", mileage may vary on this whether you enjoy Mentor's vocals or not. The title track closes the album with 11+ minutes of epic doom, the vocals fit the most on this track and it is probably the highlight for the album.
'Winter's storm on this evil sinful night
Sweeps like a torrent in these hours of darkness
Tears are useless in this God-forsaken blight
Ripe for conquest, we are wrapped in ruins'
Sinews of Anguish sounds relatively low budget, but clean and consistent. The simplicity of the riffing is captured with power. The songs are decently composed for doom, and the lyrics aren't bad. Essentially, if you enjoy the sounds of later St. Vitus, early Trouble, Candlemass, or Memory Garden, and don't mind a different vocalist, this might be worth your time to check out.