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I'll admit it, I found myself bored with AoP's previous offerings of basic post-black. It’s a well-trodden genre when sticking to the basics. But here...my God, what a swansong. Fusing post-black, post-metal, and industrial; Teethed Glory and Injury is a truly unique experience that despite all innovation is no less grim or enjoyable than the original BM acts that inspired it.
So forget everything you thought you knew about Altar of Plagues. If you didn’t know it was them going in, you never would have guessed it. Gone are the cascading tremolos and rhythm chords. Gone are the distant howls and blastbeats. What remains is a thumping, pulsating human heart. Its beating can be heard in the pounding drums and accented starts and stops of discordant guitar, bpm rising and falling through various emotional soundscapes.
”God Alone” sounds like a fire alarm signaling the inevitable release of rage. This is accompanied by some of the most vile, contemptible BM vocals I have heard since Gorgoroth first hit the scene. “Burnt Year” turns a basic 4:4 beat and dissonant backdrop of guitar clamor into a vision of hopelessness. “Twelve Was Ruin” is a spectacular build from ambient to a bending, contorting madness of distortion, electronics, and screams. The only rest seems to be found in “A Remedy and Fever.” But even this turns out to be no more than repressed torment splitting at the seams.
I could go on with song after song of extremely unique riffs and expert harnessing of noise, but I’ll leave the rest for you to discover on your own. Despite the fact that I was two years late to this album, it quickly became one of my most-listened albums. It’s addictive, and it doesn’t hurt that the price tag is only $7.49 CAD (about $6). Add this to your collection of completely unique black metal experiences today.
Review courtesy of Metal Trenches (metaltrenches.com)
Altar of Plagues are a pretty curious case. Appearing on the scene just in time to serve as one of the vanguard of the recent wave of post-rock/black metal hybrid bands that came into vogue in the US and certain parts of Europe, the band managed to peak early and slowly begin on a steady downward trajectory. The constantly nagging issue with so many of these bands is sort of multi-dimensional. For one, few bands in this style have ever managed to convince me of their competence in writing and, perhaps more importantly, passion in playing black metal. Secondly, few of these bands seemed to pull from post-rock in an interesting way, many simply opting for a dumbed-down version of the clean, reverby arpeggiated/tremolo picked guitars in major chords aesthetic popularized chiefly by Explosions in the Sky that has become sort of the default mode of expression for every uninteresting post-rock band on the planet and, by osmosis, every uninteresting post-rock/metal hybrid on the planet. Finally, despite the fact that there has always been so much potential for successful hybridization between these two styles, actual recorded evidence of this potential is rare and to my knowledge no band has been able to pull it off consistently.
The uniqueness of the failure of Altar of Plagues' career, of which this album is an important part, is twofold. Compared to many of their contemporaries, the band's early foundations in a more straightforward black metal mode were more consistently convincing and powerful. Their first two EP's displayed a passionate savagery that was willing to embrace black metal's traditional negativity, seething with nihilism and raw hatred (especially on Sol). Their flirtations with post-rock, after a time, began to avoid the bland Explosions in the Sky-isms mentioned earlier in favor of darker, more amorphous soundscapes that had more to do with Godspeed You! Black Emperor's apocalyptic dirges than with Yndi Halda or God Is an Astronaut. This fruitful marriage culminated on their debut full-length, White Tomb, which afforded the band the space it needed to let their ideas marry, grow and burn. The album serves still as the pinnacle of the band's career and one of the better releases of this loose movement. Their sophomore album, Mammal, just sort of happened. Its four tracks were progressively worse and worse, each sounding more uninspired and worn out than the song before it, the soundtrack to a band losing interest in the music they had helped to popularize.
Which brings us to Teethed Glory & Injury, an album remarkable in its unremarkableness. It's an album stocked with offhand references to their earlier sound thrown haphazardly into a field of bland experimentation that simultaneously bores and frustrates. This album really is like a field; flat, featureless, devoid of direction or intrigue and planted with gray flowers, desaturated images of sounds you've seen before but in better light. Krallice are an awful post-modern black metal band whose sound is undeniably urban and, even in its failing, does a decent job of reminding you what hateful places cold, disconnected cosmopolitan cities can be. On Teethed Glory, Altar of Plagues attempt to evoke of the same calculated lifelessness, but they're not from New York, they're not from London, hell, they're not even from Dublin; they're from Cork. It's hard to empathize with the inhumanity of a soulless concrete-glass-and-steel hell when the skyline's only four stories tall. The atmosphere tells me this ought to be oppressive, ugly stuff, but it smells more like mundanity than it does smog and asphalt.
One-note chugs reach for Darkspace but come out more like a mathless Meshuggah. Weary dark ambient makes up a significant portion of the album's duration but conjures neither darkness nor ambiance. Scattershot tremolo lines happen. They aren't used or incorporated, they happen. "Oh right, that's what we do in this here band." On previous works, the between-metal droning dark ambient served as the haunting ghosts of the onslaught that proceeded it, often drawing out some pedal point note as an extended moan, a calm before the next storm. This time around the ambient serves as the foundation, with spurts of activity merely barely-edible garnish on a dreary plate. The relative shortness of the track lengths may lead you to believe that Altar of Plagues have streamlined their songwriting but this is precisely not the case; track divisions feel almost arbitrary. The whole thing could've very well been written as a single long, directionless piece, snipped into bits during the lulls or forced into play via unexpected fade-outs, perhaps so that they'd show up on your iPhone's shuffle nine times as often. The format robs the band of their opportunity to do what they were best at: riding out minimalistic chord progressions and melodic motifs as long as was necessary. In a way I'm almost glad, though, as few of the melodies or riffs (a generous epithet, that) warrant repeating.
Nearly everything on Teethed Glory sounds so non-commital. The guitar tone nags and irritates in an whispering whine, emphasizing the flatlined non-riffs of songs like "A Body Shrouded". Where's the roaring blanket of warmth from White Tomb? The most ominous-sounding thing on the whole album is the violin-drone that opens "Mills". Johnny King's fairly involved, energetic drum performance likely outshined the rest of the instrumentation to such a large degree that they opted to feed the whole drum mix through a gray sonic filter, rendering the snare as a distant tapping, the cymbals as vague washes of white noise across the high end and the bass drums as the clicky parts of generic "clicky bass drum production" with no thud, no gusto whatsoever. The seething blackened rasps of the Altar of Plagues of yore have been swapped out with a dry, crackling croak in some places and awkward histrionics in others, the bellowing post-metal roars replaced with a disinterested shout.
The few moments of decency, i.e. those that didn't actively annoy or else shamble by with nothing of note happening at all, serve only to highlight the overall poor quality of the album rather than act as oases in a desert of boredom and unpleasantness. The mournful, spacey ambient latter half of "Twelve Was Ruin" only draws attention to the ill-thought-out obnoxious skronking that served as the same song's climax. "A Remedy and a Fever" has the album's most heartfelt melodies and a nearly-satisfying blackened conclusion, but they couldn't help but fuck everything up by cutting the good parts short and tossing in some inane one-note, mechanical guitar bleating every time the song almost turned into something worth listening to.
It should come as no surprise at all, after giving this album a listen, that the band then decided this was their last gasp and called it a day. Sure, they might tell their friends (and themselves, no doubt) that this was their final and most refined statement, but really it's just the sound of a band that had already become quite bored with a style of music they actually had some talent for and simply giving up. That's what's so curious about it; when most bands reach this stage of not giving a fuck, they tend to turn either to obvious cash-ins or half-dead pandering to their fanbase with uninspired retreads of their signature sounds. Teethed Glory & Injury is neither of these things, evidenced by its utter inaccessibility and (half-assed) experimentalism both. Unlike other late-career failures, this album actually manages to paint a very clear picture: that of three men standing in a recording studio, not looking at or talking to one another, recording the sounds of themselves going through the motions and while daydreaming of a time when they wouldn't have to do this anymore.
The turbulent, expansive soundscapes which built upon each other and blossomed into prosperous climaxes are completely dead. Hearing this is essentially hearing guitars belching and the idea of that happening and not being something appealing in a grotesque, curious way is upsetting. This is Altar Of Plagues, a band which had a considerable amount of skill venturing into the unknown through atmospheric channels. The blend of influences supplanting sheer viciousness worked in their favor as harmonies streamed forth from a sea of noise, black metal, post-metal / rock and contemporary overtones. It was ingenuity that allowed them to pull off something so vast in scope and maintain melody, intricacy, and intrigue without funneling themselves into dullness, technicality, or mindlessness. For some reason, that dullness, technicality, and mindlessness that they avoided for two full albums somehow became the goal for Teethed Glory And Injury.
To put albums like Mammal and White Tomb in perspective and to help understand just how much I enjoyed them, I have to quote Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic II – The Sith Lords. When I hear those albums:
”It is like a current that passes through you, and carries you with it to all the places it touches.”
That line was used as an option to describe the Force, and I feel like it perfectly describes Plagues’ previous work. That isn’t even in the least the case with this one. To give it some respect, it’s got sections that nail it with zealous leads or when the writing does without the sporadic jumpiness. The ending to “Twelve Was Ruin” is one such example and for such a pointlessly long, grating song, the ending to it is enthralling. It starts out thumping and pulsating like a song off Neurosis’ Enemy Of The Sun and is similar in… wait, no I’m not even going to go there. This isn’t like that because it’s devoid of any quality layering or finish. It’s bare bones in riffing with dirty distortion, backwash sound effects, and automated nature. After some ghostly clean vocals improperly placed, the song breaks back into a rhythm. Of course, its catchiness is equal to that of ripping strings off a guitar. Thankfully, this ends by around the five and a half minute mark and what follows is absolutely riveting. It’s a comprehensive amalgamation of all the right things that creates great spacey atmosphere – floatingly-slow pace, keys / electronic effects that add to the cosmic scope, and reliance on guitars in a post-rock fashion for proper melody.
In fact, that’s the way I prefer the guitars to be on this album, otherwise it trudges with its dry-ass tone; a tone with no bite. It’s forceful but is the incorrect way to go about playing with this type of music. It all comes down to the quote I provided up top. Do what needs to be done to move me – to make me feel a galaxy’s worth of gravity is bearing down on me. That level of power and the velocity at which it hits has been almost fully removed, and what’s left in its place is soulless misdirection. Drumming is even screwed up when it’s doing blast beats just to match the soggy dread the leads are striving to capture. Blast beats are normal, though; sometimes it’s tribal, sometimes it’s stampeding, and a lot of the time crashes down standardly. Bass should be massive and overbearing, not blubbery and pithy as it is here. At this point I’m just dictating how they should sound, but that to me is how they’d be most effective. The snarly screams are the only real unchanged part, still sounding desiccated and impure. However, it doesn’t have the same impact or appeal as before when it’s pasted over the crap that’s playing on this thing.
Also, what’s up with the transitions on this album? It starts and stops like it was patched together without the thought to keep continuity intact. This criticism applies mostly to transitions within songs but between songs isn’t safe, either. “Mills” sounds like either string instruments meandering or an electric razor buzzing for a couple minutes and then it splits into the siren-like build up the band is known for until “God Alone” kicks in unexpectedly. Were they trying to make these two sound like one long track? It fails to reenact that desire, instead derailing the previous track and giving no time to let it sink in before I’m battered by one of the most atonal, non-catchy riffs I’ve ever heard. “God Alone” picks apart at my brain with its choppy, DUDGE-DUDGE, DUDGE-DUDGE riffing (which is a recurring style for this entire album). Progressive metalcore bands do this to squeeze in some djent but when they do it it’s catchy as shit, whereas the ones here prove that guitars can shriek in pain. Only “A Remedy And A Fever” was spared in this regard. It’s still annoying when it’s as though a song has creative things thrown into it but the end result is drier than a desert.
Teethed Glory And Injury is like noise-influenced black metal loitering and having no idea what to do with itself besides plowing through with nonsensical writing. One word that gets overused to describe bands in recent years is “dissonant”. This band revels in dissonance, but there’s creating something brooding (i.e. akin to “Procession Of The Dead Clowns” by Blut Aus Nord) and creating idiocy and passing it off as intellectual (which the first two already were intellectual without the idiocy, and didn't need to ruin itself in order to prove). That plus a lack of coherency kills this album faster than interpretive dancing will kill me if I tried it. It’s got some good parts and “A Remedy And A Fever” was good the whole way through, but man is Altar Of Plagues’ send-off a bomb.
Do we even remember what black metal was like before Deathspell Omega and the invention of millions of djent bands? It was a simpler time: a time when I could listen to Plague Angel or Fuck the Universe with an unsettling amount of joy. A time when the genre lines were actually quite defined, standing triumphantly in the faces of the normalcy and artistry of other genres. There was only so many different genres of black metal, and honestly the greatest deviation in style came from the weirdo DSBM bands or the influence of “shoegaze” (I’m putting that shit in quotes because I’ve yet to hear a genuinely shoegazing sound from the black metal associated with this moniker). It was a time before blurred lines and bands constantly trying to prove their artistic merits.
I’m the opposite of nostalgic. Call me a progressive in every sense of the word. Adapt or die baby, it’s the way of the world. But, the way things have progressed lately have really become more or less, a circle jerk of said artistic meritocracy. Each band is trying hard and harder to become more “high-minded” in their pursuits – and with this high-mindedness comes this new dissonant chain dragging annoyance. Altar of Plagues encapsulates this mentality. Gone are the traditional black metal norms – in their place come the new, anti-riff driven songs that are, for lack of a better word, a plague (wait, wait, found a better word: a blight) on black metal.
It’s not even that this album is terrible. I think there’s a fair amount of interesting things going on throughout it, but Teethed Glory and Injury just presents itself in the wimpiest and soulless way possible. There’s this entire dissonant, pulsating atmosphere but it’s lacking any real defining characteristics. Each song just sort of moves from one sound to another – no melodies or motifs, no recognizable riffs or interesting drum work. It’s just this massive wall of sound that tries so goddamn hard to be impressive but just isn’t. Altar of Plagues puts layers and layers of sounds into each song (“Scald Scar of Water”, “Twelve Was Ruin”, “God Alone”) and instead of sound massive and interesting; the songs themselves sound drawn out and stale. It tries to be this towering, meandering, shifting behemoth of an album and instead, its tinny production and excruciatingly weak songwriting make it laughably minuscule.
A quick side note here, actually. I think a review like this provides a decent platform for the topic of the new waves of black metal coming out today. You know what the biggest difference between an album like this and let’s say, Liturgy’s Aesthetica? Riffs. Do you even remember riffs? They were the central meaningful force in metal at one point, and arguably the singular defining aspect of the genre. But with this new dissonant style of metal coming out, we have a distinct lack of the foundations upon which metal was founded. Metal, and particularly black metal, is starting to become entirely synonymous with this faux-dissonance and sonic otherization. This is why I can’t stand albums like this. Liturgy, with all of its theatrics, manifestos, and “innovations” still has some semblance of respect in my pantheon of bad taste. They at least write riff driven songs with structures and movements, organic sounds and most importantly, tapping into real emotional moments at times.
Altar of Plagues opted out for noisy boring repetition.
“But it’s supposed to be repetitive” says some apologetic listener.
“It’s the awful type of repetition” say I.
This is the type of repetition found in bland pop music, in terribly written progressive rock, in baffling boring jazz music or experimental music. It’s just the same ideas recycled over and over again in each song. Then, after these ideas are used in their various capacities, they are just given a fresh coat of pain in the form of differing levels of distortion and space. The whole album is industrial noises, strange droning one note guitar riff, and the occasional “black metal” riff to tie it back to its roots.
“It’s pushing boundaries” says some foolish fan
“It’s boundary pushing only in the sense that it doesn’t really operate within any boundaries” says the wise Frog.
And not in a flattering way, really.
Teethed Glory and Injury doesn’t fit into any sort of paradigm because it just sort of sits between a bunch of different ones. It’s not really metal, it’s not really djent, it’s not really rock, and it’s only extreme in the sense that it has a heavy atmosphere to it. I’m not even quite sure any blanket other than the disgustingly generic “post” label actually fits. Altar of Plagues just sort of floats in between all of these excellent ideas, but never once actually does anything with them. They have a minute or two of brilliance, and excellent delivery (“A Remedy and a Fever”) but then the whole atmosphere is ruined by some sort of clanging dragging riff that doesn’t really fit. These are the times that I’m glad bands like Bosse-De-Nage or Deafheaven, or Panopticon are around – to remind those outside of metal (i.e. those who will claim this album as triumphant) that a well-placed soaring riff can be absolutely transcendent.
Altar of Plagues does nothing of the sort with this album. Outside of the last two musical minutes of “Reflection Pulse Remains” there is very little emotional breakthrough on this album. In lieu of emotion, output and drive, we have these goddamn one-two punch riffs, static and uninspired drumming, feedback and overdriven synths. In short, we have the DsO dissonance so popular with everyone these days. You remember Fas being emotional? Neither do I. At least Si Monumentum tried – even if it was repetitive and a bit overblown (“Carnal Malefactor” is the best example of this). But, alas, Fas is seemingly what made the entire rest of the world pay attention to black metal, so we have what we have.
It goes back to the whole point that this album has only a few riffs – the rest of the songs are just a collection of jarring sounds and noises on the guitar. In a way, it makes this particular type of music further removed from anything metallic. I’m not even remotely suggesting that one needs to be metallic to be worth listening to – but it’s just so strange to see that metal has become something that one basically has to sit down and listen quietly to to enjoy it. However, unlike classical, jazz, or whatever else people claim needs to be carefully analyzed, the particular dissonance that Altar of Plagues creates just isn’t that interesting. It’s layered, it sure sounds pretty, but it’s flat and uninspired.
I say this next sentence with full self-awareness.
What makes this album a worse threat to black metal/metal as a whole than any Liturgies, The Swords, Wolves in the Throne Rooms or whatever other target there is, is this terrible dissonant bullshit.
At least those bands operate within some sort of tradition and paradigm of black metal or metal. There’s nothing drastically apart from the usual fair of what we find in metaldom. The problem with a band like Altar of Plagues is that they are dismantling the abstract idea of metal into some sort of characteristic of “extremity” or “dissonance” or “heaviness”. I liked earlier Altar. I thought they were enjoyable and emotional and pressing – but that was before emotion was equated with cacophonous annoyances. There is nothing passionate about two note riffs and spazzy drumming. It sounds lazy and removed – some shell of extremity, rather than a breathing and healthy beast.
I just don’t see any of the emotion present on an album like Social Disservices, the passion on The Gathering Wilderness, the majesty of Triarchy of the Lost Lovers. on Teethed Glory and Injury. To be honest, it doesn’t really have a single element of what makes metal so magnificent. It has what others may think defines it: the noise, the harshness, the evil and mysterious presentation. But it lacks heart, it lacks something moving. Altar of Plagues has created something robotic – fitting for their lyrical topics – a sort of plug and play for extreme music. Teethed Glory and Injury is, simply put, lacking in anything memorable, good, or even imaginative. Hopefully the “dissonant artistry” of the genre retires with Altar of Plagues.
Don’t let the rest of the world think that metal has to catch up with its artistic tastes.
Don’t let those who claim to be above the genre define it.
Don’t let an album like Teethed Glory and Injury be considered anything other than a failed experiment.
Or maybe I just have to catch up with the times and let you do whatever you want .
The third release from Irish pack Altar Of Plagues sees the band carrying on with the experimentation they dabbled in on Mammal and to move further from the Wolves in the Throne Room inspired style of their debut in favor of the more decaying urban post metal vibe that they’ve always had albeit in smaller amounts.
As time has gone on Altar Of Plagues has become less straightforward black metal, not that they were ever in the first place but it appears that they’ve got less interest in being a conventional black metal band. Not that I have a problem with that mind you, it’s always interesting to hear black metal bands come out with something unique and innovative and Altar of Plagues have truly done something special here.
They’ve taken the blue print of their original sound and added more to it, there are shades of drone, noise and post rock and the ambiance is still there but it definitely comes across as different. I heard somewhere that this album is more cinematic and I agree with that, it’s less otherworldly and more down to earth but the sound feels bigger and more expansive than before. It allows it to reach new emotional heights and ensures it remains compelling.
It would be easy for Teethed Glory and Injury to stay in the same vain as their previous albums, not that I’d have a problem with that but Altar Of Plagues clearly have very different goals in mind. Not content to repeat themselves Teethed Glory and Injury is their most compelling and unique release to date. The songs are much shorter and there are more of them as well, nine compared to the four of their previous full lengths. They’re all pretty face melting and results in Teethed Glory and Injury being their heaviest/loudest release to date.
Teethed Glory and Injury is experimentation not for the sake of experimentation but for the sake of exploring new ground and adding much more to their sonic fingerprint. The electronics mixed with the harsh, dissonant and almost sludgy black metal really makes this is a fantastic album. There’s also a definite grindcore influence just to add to the intensity. This is pretty fierce yet filled with some sort of subdued beauty, there’s no hope here though, no hope at all. Teethed Glory and Injury is a bleak sonic cathedral of cacophonous negative emotions that serves to convey the sense of looking out onto a ruined world through the window of a dilapidated room. One of the best examples of atmospheric black metal I’ve heard thus far, Teethed Glory and Injury succeeds more than others in portraying an authentic and bleak atmosphere.
Altar Of Plagues most eclectic and experimental release to date, Teethed Glory and Injury ensures that Altar Of Plagues will remain at the forefront of the Irish scene and to secure their reputation as one of black metal’s most original and exciting. Teethed Glory and Injury is a strong contender for album of the year and one of the best Black Metal albums of the new decade. At this point I’m not sure what I like more, White Tomb or this one, they’re different, they bring a different feel to the table but it wouldn’t be sacrilege to say this is their best so far.
There are plenty of ways for a good band to start sucking, in fact there are so many ways it's hard for a band to really escape the eventual slide into suckitude for any length of time. It's easy repeat yourself over and over until your music has no soul or worth anymore like Altar of Plague's fellow post-rock/black metal genre solidifiers and scene setters, Fen, so obviously changes of some kind are necessary for a band to have longevity beyond a couple of albums after a suitably high standard is set, but this leads to other problems in itself. You can change to something you're just plain not very good at, like the tech death band Amoral turning into power metal, or you can change to something that's as equally worn out as what you were running away from, like Abigail Williams fleeing the over-saturated deathcore scene to join the equally over-saturated Emperor worship scene, or any other of a number of landmines. With Teethed Glory and Injury, Altar of Plagues have stumbled into a reasonably uncommon one in successfully re-imagining their music into something new and unheard of, but something entirely fucking stupid and awful sounding. Now this is different from merely doing a transition which doesn't sound very good, this is a transition into a musical idea that was doomed to fail in a ridiculous trainwreck of stupidity soon as the concept was thought up, not unlike what Morbid Angel did with Illud Divinum Insanus. They haven't failed in execution, this is exactly the album the band wanted to make, but the concept itself was dumb.
In short, they've tried to make some kind dissonant, aggressively thumpy djenty sort of thing but with super simplistic, minimalist riffs and tones, to fall back on Morbid Angel at their worst again, not unlike if you took the main riff from "Too Extreme" and made it jerky and claimed it was intelligent art. Then they tried to combine this dumbassed, pounding bullshit with very careful, emotive post-rock and haunting ambiance for reasoning beyond my comprehension. Even if the actual inventive part of this sound wasn't the worst sounding thing ever (It is, oh it is), that's about as smooth as a combination as Jungle Rot doing a collaboration with Dead Can Dance. As a result the album sounds like messy mash up of ill-fitting sounds with none of the careful genre switching nuance that made their name so revered in the style.
Likewise, the density and power of their music has been whacked out at the knees by the laughably weak production offered up here; the guitar tone is wispy thin, neither delivering the sheer concussive force of the debut, or the sludgey magnitude of Mammal, instead adopting a super shrill, yet not dirty tone which could maybe fit a proper black metal effort, but is completely too thin and neat to either create a warm and all encompassing post rock sound, and is too small and meager to suit the bands sludgier, meaner moments. The awfulness of the sound is one thing, but the way it manages to fail to fit in with any element of the myriad of styles attempted here is particularly unforgivable.
But you know, being sloppily composed and full of mood whiplash is hardly a reason to utterly slam an album, if you want to really suck by creating a stupid progression, you've got to invent something as dumb as it is terrible, and Altar of Plagues have pulled it off masterfully. The new invention the band has created is a new twist on the dissonant scenes that have popped up everywhere of late; with the rise of djent and increased abundance of bands playing twisted black and death metal, dissonance is definitely the "in" thing right now. The band themselves had flirted with passages of it in the past, so it makes sense that they'd choose to push boundaries in the boundary most open to pushing around and one they have experience in, and indeed, they've pushed one. The making it fucking retarded and uninteresting boundary it seems.
The dissonance here is unique in that it doesn't aim to create jarring, contrasting notes or anti-melodies, instead the band just jam along on one note in with the tempo spazzing around meaninglessly along with drums that play a different rhythm. It's like Djent if it was dumber and even less thought out. It's those annoying bicycle bell riffs Liturgy write but with more frustrating drums. It's the shittiest thing on the planet. And I'm not joking, the bad here is bad, as bad as anything has ever been. The worst track here, "God Alone" genuinely a contender for the worst song I've ever heard in my entire life; it's built around an awful one note DUNDUN DUNDUN riff that repeats forever, sometimes getting tinkered to have a blast here or there, or be a little bit less fog horn and more post-metal in tone, but the same repetitive DUNDUN DUNDUN "riff" pounds over and over for the entire four and half a minutes while they add inconsequential nonsense noises around the sides which completely fail to hide the fact that they wrote the worst riff ever written. These sort of riffs and ideas, namely taking a Static-X riff and making it skip while they fuck around with a wide range of completely random drumming patterns and effects, actually make up the vast majority of the metal parts on the album, so it sadly isn't a one off, songs like "Burnt Year", "Scald Scar of Water", "Twelve Was Ruin" or "Absolutely every song on the album" get away with (relatively speaking of course) their entries into worlds worst riff competition by at least structuring a couple of different ideas into their run-times, so as to avoid being pure annoyance loops.
Now, I'm a bit worried about putting this next little bit in because defenders of the album will surely jump on the chance to claim I'm an old fashioned crone who won't touch anything which doesn't come from huts in the Scandinavian woods recorded through the entrails of tortured kittens, but this isn't black metal at all really. I know, I know, this has no real bearing on quality at all, hell, before you jump down my throat for not liking bands who change or hating anything hipstery, Altar of Plagues were always hipstery and not proper black metal, in fact they kinda popularised the whole scene, but I what can I say, I'm easily baited by anything that gets claimed is the future of a genre by distinctly not playing that fucking genre. Admittedly, I could have chosen from a multitude of releases getting this exact same form of buzz from the last couple of years, but the point still stands. You are not progressing a genre by playing post rock, ambient, noise, djent, sludge, free jazz or whatever alongside it, yes, you can make some interesting music, you can make some fresh sounding music, you can make some great music, but you don't actually enhance a genre of music unless you're actually doing something new actually within that genre of music. These DUNDUN DUNDUN riffs are not black metal, the contrasting musical genre switches are not black metal, the black metal here is completely in line with what already exists. This is an aside I admit, and has no bearing, but I can't help it, this band gets so much praise for doing something it entirely does not do, and I will not stand for it. It does some inventive things, as previously discussed, but they're not black metal, and more importantly they're goddamn atrocious.
On the topic of actual black metal riffs here, there are only a couple of them popping up over the course of the album to attempt to give the extreme side of the album some form of respectability, and even then they tend to fit more or less into the modern Cascadian BM school of terrible, simplistic, subtly melodic but more outwardly tedious chord progressions which manage to be popular because being pretty in a minimalist way is artistic or some shit, so they're not much of an improvement. Basically, when Teethed Glory and Injury is feeling heavy, you're going to get 90% the worst thing ever, or 10% the most uninteresting, vapid shite the Profound Lore scene can shit out at you, and even bloody Fen have the common decency to just stick to the later.
So, we've got terrible, all over the place song structures resulting in a lack of cohesive moods, an awful production, and legitimately the worst riffset ever to exist, so we can actually consider ourselves pretty lucky that this album isn't the most atrocious thing ever recorded and is merely the worst thing to come out in 2013, but unfortunately for my yet to be broken-in 0% finger, there is a saving grace here; turns out that Altar of Plagues actually are a pretty solid post rock band. Not as good of a post rock band as they were a black metal plus post metal band back on White Tomb I admit, but as Mammal showed they are perfectly capable at executing 6/10 level post rock and ambient. While the terrible, ill-fitting production maybe knocks it down a couple of points, but I'd be lying through my glorious teeth if I claimed the ambient outro to "Twelve Was Ruin" or the lead melody to "Reflection Pulse Remains" didn't give me some genuine pleasure, and they spend a decent enough amount of time playing these mellower styles to make up for some of the awful, awful riffs, I'll even let them get away with doing a DUNDUN riff during the post rock intro to "A Body Shrouded," because I'm a nice sort of guy.
Sadly, that's where my niceness ends, Altar of Plagues final offering is an unbearable mix of moderately well executed post rock, sub-average black metal, and indeed an inventive, new musical idea which just so happens to be less enjoyable than most strains of Ebola. It does enough to not be the worst thing ever made, but only just, this is truly awful way for a once promising band to bow out.
...And "God Alone" is probably the worst song ever. I really can't stress that enough.
...It's so bad.
The Irishmen have come a long way from since their first full-length in 2009. Once a darling of Cascadian fans everywhere, the band quickly proved wrong those who pigeonholed them into the trendy sub-sub-genre. 2011′s Mammal began the transition of the band’s self-discovery and with Teethed Glory and Injury as their Profound Lore hat trick, they have truly found themselves. Gone are the double-digit tracks that grow slowly but surely into maddeningly devastating behemoths; the long, drawn-out intros that used to be a staple of the group have been parsed and peppered into the most unusual places. But track length doesn’t matter, the album flows seamlessly in and out of the bipolar madness for the full 50 minutes. Each song stands wonderfully and desperately alone, but transforms into something massively oppressive when consumed as a whole. The resulting sound is unlike anything one would expect from the group, creating a work that grasps at something darker, something atypically malicious.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the band’s first music video for the song “God Alone” and noted the odd visuals of both the piece and the album art. But as I delved into the depths of Teethed Glory the aesthetics began to make more and more sense. The twisting acrobatics of the figures both complement and mimick the album’s aural texture; odd and creepy, yet surprisingly fluid. It’s as if a black metal release were physically stretched, with a noisy doom experiment shoved inside to fill the gaps. Forays into tremolo norms are rare and used as an afterthought instead of a crutch. Pieces of industrial madness occasionally find their way into the din. While not all of that is entirely new for the style, the flourishes are streamlined and subtle; interjecting without pause.
With so many bands releasing so many predictable albums with the same predictable riffs, themes, and sounds, it’s beyond refreshing to put on an album by an artist you love and be completely and utterly surprised. It’s the sense of deep wonder that sucks you into the full-length, and you hear something past the music, something beyond. Teethed Glory and Injury is desperately bleak, with every note and every banshee-like scream piercing your very being, dragging you further into the madness.
Altar Of Plagues has made its mark as one of the greatest black metal bands ever to hit the scene. They formed in 2006 from Cork, Ireland, and from that point forward, the group released some highly enjoyably dark and atmospheric metal records, such as "White Tomb" in 2009 and "Mammal" in 2011. Sadly, though, as of 2013, their legacy may be coming to an end, as the members have decided to move on to other projects. However, that doesn't mean that the band can't leave without a parting gift, which is where their third and last full-length, "Teethed Glory and Injury," comes in.
Compared to the rest of Altar Of Plagues's collection of releases, this album appears to be steering away from straight-up black metal for a much more atmospheric and abstract sound. Although it's not completely on par with the other albums, "Teethed Glory and Injury" is still written and executed incredibly well. The overall sound is plotted out very bizarrely, and the band takes advantage of this with strange but memorable structures and musicianship. The tortured vocals add some nice rawness and creepiness to the musicm while the guitars perform buzzed and mordantly odd riffs throughout. The drums sound a tad incongruent to the rest of the music, serving as an unorthodox framework for the songs' structures. In context of that, the structures are intriguing in how unpredictably they are built, piling further onto the album's captivating factor. From the great musicianship to the well-planned structures to the captivating moments, the atmospheric black metal here really comes across as an impressive act.
At times, the music even crosses into haunting drone territory. During those instances, the tracklist places more emphasis on the atmosphere for a more hypnotic and gripping listen. One such example would be the album's starting track "Mills," which enters with a slow, chilling, and somewhat distorted electronic drone track, giving the music some good suspense to work off of. The ambience behind some of these tracks, including this one, lends itself to be very useful in making the structures even more unsettling and attention-grabbing. To make a long story short, the drone-like sounds that "Teethed Glory and Injury" bring forth certainly work in its favor.
On top of the well-crafted metal, the album also possesses some simple but very fitting artwork. The cover is a black-and-white photograph of a woman contorting backwards in an unsettling arched position. The picture, as just stated, is simple, but is so odd, dark, and eerie that it clicks perfectly with the music. As this band always have, Altar Of Plagues has some stellar artwork to accompany their dark soundtracks.
As the band's last album, "Teethed Glory and Injury" has proved to be a nice finale for a great band's discography. While not quite as stellar as "White Tomb" and "Mammal," this record is nonetheless not an intriguing step the band took in developing their sound, but it also is darkly enjoyable. The way the songs are laid out with bizarre tunes and atmospheres into these odd structures make way for a pleasurable listen. Even though the iris is closing for Altar Of Plagues, it's safe to say they've definitely made their exit on a high note.
Originally posted on: http://metaljerky.blogspot.com/
It is so refreshing when bands willfully step out of their comfort zone. It represents what I perceive as a hunger; a burning desire to explore new sounds, new emotions, and realizations about themselves and their music. That consuming urge to push oneself conceptually is what keeps music strong and elite, regardless of the changes of the world. Creativity is what conceived music and art in the first place and is what keeps it alive throughout the ages.
It is why I have a harder and harder time paying much attention to what goes on in metal these days. I still follow my favorite bands and listen to what I can, but to find new metal groups and albums is a cumbersome task. It is mostly due the fact so many new groups are just playing the same traditional style in hopes that the way they play their rendition of the same riffs and licks is somehow more exciting than the previous band. Established bands churn out the same album again and again to appease their hardcore fans while gradually lessening up on the liveliness due to the unfortunate truth that they are getting older and endurance is harder to maintain as the years go by. The music isn't bad, but at some level I secretly wish the bands would stretch out their sound palette and try new things.
Over the last few years I have come to be a massive fan for this particular band, Altar of Plagues. I have had a lukewarm relationship with the whole Black Metal meets Post Rock in the sense that I like the idea very much, but many of the bands are clogging the scene with the same ideas and sounds. I guess even 'hipster' metal circles are vulnerable to stagnation. This is why Altar of Plagues stands out to me; they are a group using this style as an original blue print, but have long since expanded on that with sounds and timbres from genres like sludge metal, drone music, and even a little bit of ambient. You can hear that immediately by the difference between White Tomb and Mammal which the the former tended to have each element distinct and isolated within its own moment for the sake of the structure of the album while Mammal meshed the sludge, atmospheric black, and drone inside this post rock/metal stew throughout that recording. It is safe to say they have taken a giant leap forward in their sound on Teethed Glory and Injury and come at a crossroads between their Black Metal past and to something…new.
Looking at the track list is evidence enough that they are changing up the pace with this new release. Their previous albums seem to have a formula about them; four tracks with the first two being long meaty black metal/post rock tracks, the third being a short left fielder, and the final tracking being a nice post rock crescendo based closer. This was fine because I saw White Tomb and Mammal as companion albums in ways, both exploring similar subjects but only from two distinct perspectives. Here there are nine tracks and most of them around the four minute range so naturally you cannot possibly expect the same mammoth weighted black metal epics. Instead this is a whole new beast in intensity and ferocity. The riffs are much more upfront, rhythmic and groove based and the resulting arrangement of these riffs brings such an immediate sense of force whcih the previous albums only briefly touched upon. The track God Alone rides hard on this two stroke riff that embeds nicely on the one and two then on the four and five beats of the 6/8 meter. From there they layer on these jagged upbeat stroke on the three and six, filling out all the spaces in the pattern. The tone on that upstroke is so vicious, especially with the wide feedback that rises with it each time. This gradually builds into this amazing deconstruction of the rhythmic section and opens up into this hazy tremolo based progression with a low end that leaves me absolutely floored. This type of magnificent gear shifting defines much of the structure of songs on this album and it only adds to the excitement.
Easily the greatest quality of Altar of Plagues is their mastery of tones and timbres of the electric guitar and the way it all melds together to create such unique sounds and color. Teethed Glory and Injury greatly expands on this quality not only in the guitars, but also in the inclusion of electronics. Out of all the changes in style Altar of Plagues has adopted on this release, the use of electronics is for sure the most noticeable element to make its way on here. However despite how the distinction between guitar and electronics is rather apparent, the tones actually mesh incredibly well to make whole new textures. The intro, Mills is the upfront presentation of this phenomenon at work, as it opens with a gnawing, foreboding synth tone that sounds almost like a bowed string wavering against some dissonant backing tones. Eventually those electronic tones builds into a score of awesome bass drops with hazy tremolo guitar tones that soar over the whole track. The synths are all incredibly well produced and tastefully incorporated into the metal sound world, which isn't too much of a surprise if you have heard the guitarist's side project WIFE and the production ability he showcases there.
Because of the shorter song lengths, the group tend to utilize many different ideas, levels of dynamics, and that sense of momentum in very immediate twist and turns. A single song can go from a syncopated "post rock" like section to a driving sludgy metal moment to a bombastic droning moment. The gear shifting, again, makes each song unpredictable but in a way that is thrilling rather than confusing. This is easily their most intense record, through and through, and also the most difficult to define in sound or style. There are so many different sources of inspiration coming into this, that it is hard to pin it down to one thing. Sure there are black metal elements, but in a way, there isn't. The riffs don't have the same sense of context or function as traditional black metal riffs, and are used much more rhythmically instead of the usual 'floaty-ness' of usual tremolo based figures. There iare post rock like moments, but they do it their own way, and thus is too abstract in the whole mess of things to be the strongest style. I tend to lean towards sludge metal just because of rhythmic nature of most of the music, but in a much more atmospheric and progressive nature. Honestly many parts are so minimal, yet so driving, that I would describe it as really aggressive/extreme drone metal. Burnt Year is the most immediate track that comes to mind on this subject. After opening with a industrial sounding beat, thumping constantly on the pulse, the band suddenly explodes into an absolute frenzy. The drums blast like crazy, but the hand work is completely off the rails, like an out of control projectile exploding into the nethersphere. The guitars harp so hard on this intense chord with subtle layering of tones, but the whole time its just really on this tremolo chord and it builds and expands. This what makes me think of "extreme drone metal" the most, in the minimal chord progression, yet beyond that, a performance way more intense then any drone band. The vocals… well I have always been impressed with the vocal work of this group in the past, especially their emotional and animalistic nature. But this moment on the record, is the absolute peak of vocal performances coming from this band. The baneful cries and howls are so chilling yet just so mesmerizing awe inspiring. The music rushes into a crescendo of such horror and ecstasy before dissipating into a fulfilling post rock riffing conclusion.
The vocals in general are top notch, as expected. Because of the structure of the songs here, there is much more vocal work to be heard and its much more forceful and immediate in its execution. Many times, they lay down some ballsy barks and shrieks that push hard with the riffs and drumming or matching on heavy hits on the downbeat. The fact that the bassist and guitarist both share vocal duties and both have a distinct style creates a new level of depth to the flow of the music. The bassist's strong roars match with the straightforward, hard hitting rhythmic/sludgy moments, the guitarist's loose and expressive wails matches the vibe from the more out of control black metal/blasting sections. And even then they tend to weave around the different vibes for new timbal combinations. The drumming is the most varied out of any of their records, and he tends to use much more syncopation than before. This is a welcomed change, for his playing is incredible, so its nice to hear him flex his drummer muscle a little more. Beyond that, he gives his usual tasteful approach to each moment and rhythmic change. For an album with so much gear shifting, he is completely on point and is in complete control of the momentum that drives each track.
The first half of Teethed Glory and Injury, up to and through the longest track Twelve Was Ruin is completely on point, with no complains to speak of. The track after, A Remedy and a Fever, sounds like some sort of transitioning track. It borrows similar sounding material from the electronic outré of Twelve Was Ruin and adapts it to a slow build into a metal crescendo, which then transitions into the track Scald Scar of Water. This is a good and proper metal frenzy, with parts which sound like chaotic grindcore, but as if it was slowed down a good amount. Later it dies down and then slowly opens up into a glorious chorus of solemn voices and post metal like riffing as a melancholic conclusion. Then comes the first real hitch in this album. Found, Oval and Final is a short track that rides on this straightforward groove riff, yet never goes anywhere with it. It doesn't sound bad, but it feels underdeveloped and ultimately just kills the near perfect streak of this album. This might have been one to leave out and put on the backburner. Then the final track, Reflection Pulse Remains is one of the strongest tracks on here but also feels like it is missing something to truly make it worthy as an album finisher. This is the one moment where they would fallen into a consistency with their other albums; the beautiful, emotional post rock closer. But for some reason it seems like Altar of Plagues wanted to avoid being anything like their older material (in the sense of album structure) that they may have accidentally hurt this track in the process. It starts with a slow pulse of drums and pained shrieks before introducing layers of fantastic guitar leads and figures that weave into a magnificent harmony. As the track builds from the powerful thumps into the awesome signature 6/8 beat, the band for some reason ends it way to early into a electronic fizzle. I liked all the ideas laid out, but I think the song could have used one or two more cycles on those riffs with that beat, let it build into that zenith of energy, then have it go into the electronic outré. As it stands it feels just a little short and is probably the most apt musical equivalent to blue balls considering how fucking amazing it is right up to the premature end. Obviously the band must have felt like it works, but for me it just sounds like it a little bit forced to avoid doing something they have done before, even if would sound natural in the way the song is progressing.
Sadly by the time that I am finishing this review up, the band has announced that they are breaking up. As one who has grown to be a huge fan of this group, the news breaks my heart, even more so when they have come this far with their music. The sounds on here are far beyond imagination in the realm of metal, and it only fuels my appetite to listen to further experimentations, especially in the vein that Altar of Plagues was going. Nevertheless, this band has achieved far more that most metal bands, and in a way that has involved so many risks, sonically and emotionally. Critics write this off as 'hipster metal' because the music is coming from a direction that can't immediately generalize into some subgenre or tradition of metal that is familiar or safe. I find this is be a copout to those who just have issues over aesthetics of a group rather than open up the music before them. Its ironic because that type of mentality is what drives so many people away from metal, real and false, in the first place. In any case, Teethed Glory and Injury, and the rest of Altar of Plagues discography will remain as a recognition of music that has reached such a tremendous standing of glory and grandeur.
Earlier today, I received word that the Irish black metal trio Altar of Plagues have decided to part ways. While it's hopeful and certainly conceivable that we'll be hearing work from these musicians under different guises in the future, it seems a very meaningful time for this project to have collapsed. Many bands may cling onto past glories long after the fire has gone out, Altar of Plagues have called it quits at the peak of their success which, from where I'm standing, seems to be the next best thing to dying at 27. Considering the band was little more than a bedroom project six years ago, it's pretty incredible to see what Altar of Plagues have managed to achieve since then; with one of my all-time black metal favourites (2011's "Mammal") counting among their accomplishments. Always playing with one foot in the ring and one foot outside, it's fitting that Altar of Plagues' tentative swansong be such an anomaly. In a genre and 'scene' that unfortunately tends to value tradition over fresh perspective, it's no wonder that "Teethed Glory And Injury" has spurned its own minor controversy in the underground. The fusion of black metal with post rock or industrial music has been done before, but rarely has the blend sounded so seamlessly. Black metal is but one of a number of forces working within the album's framework, and it's sure to spit out any listener looking for a more clearcut musical experience. This sort of atmospheric experimentalism tends to fire blanks most of the time, and that's all the more reason for Altar of Plagues' third album to have impressed me so much. There are so many risks the band have taken with Teethed Glory And Injury", and it's no small victory to have it all come together so powerfully. A gorgeous soundtrack to the end of Altar of Plagues, and the rest of the world.
From the atypical cover alone, it should be clear to almost everyone that Altar of Plagues are beyond the traditional scope of black metal. Of course, to those with the fortune to have heard their work before this, this should not come as any surprise; "White Tomb" was a remarkable, monolithic slab of atmospheric black metal, and the near-perfect "Mammal" took the band's sound closer to the realms of Isis moreso than anything. With "Teethed Glory And Injury", it feels like Altar of Plagues have found a truly unique niche within black metal. Comparisons can still be made with next-wave black metal contemporaries like Wolves in the Throne Room and Fen, and some of the post-metal veterans, but with Altar of Plagues' introduction of drone and noise, their sound has become that much more exact. Perhaps even more notably is the fact that "Teethed Glory..." represents the first time on a full-length where the band has not pursued the longer song structures that defined "White Tomb" and "Mammal". The meticulous repetition so typical of atmospheric black metal is largely removed from Altar of Plagues' musical formula, instead replaced by a much more chaotic, unpredictable ebb-and-flow style of composition.
Rather than fleshing out a few ideas into monstrously looming pieces, Altar of Plagues have condensed musical thoughts aplenty into a relatively tight space. One minute, the album may lull into a deceptively soothing piece of ambience, but its sonic opposite is usually soon to follow. This is not to say that "Teethed Glory And Injury" sounds patchy and aimless, although I would not be surprised if some listeners perceive it that way. Unlike the rest of Altar of Plagues' oeuvre, these tracks cannot function without their context. They lack the self-contained focus to be considered 'songs', and are rather pieces of an overlying puzzle. While some listeners may have anticipated a less challenging experience from the shorter song lengths, "Teethed Glory And Injury" requires a great deal more of the listener's attention than in works past. Suffice to say, there are far more surprises to be had on the album.
Altar of Plagues have seemingly mastered the ability to balance a primitive, noisy production with the meticulous calculation and grace of an auteur. The soundscape is not wildly dense or detailed, but there are more than enough nooks in the band's studio product to properly reward an attentive listener. The composition does not require a virtuosic grade of musicianship, but the atmosphere benefits from the band's healthy knowledge of dynamic. The guitars are sludgier than listeners will have come to expect from black metal, and they pack a greater punch as a result. While vocals have never been a particularly major element of Altar of Plagues' music, "Teethed Glory And Injury" has revealed an emotional depth and range to the band's vocal arsenal that adds an intense sense of passion to the music. A solid mixture of mid-register growls and traditional rasps make up the mainstay of the vocals, but there are moments here (particularly on the album's first emotional highlight "Burnt Year") where the vocals ascend to a near-inhuman howl. Overtop a melodic-yet- aggressive rupture of guitars, the resulting feeling is enormously cathartic. Clean vocals are less common, but are still used wonderfully to help accentuate some of the album's more soothing moments.
"Teethed Glory And Injury" shows a band taking many risks, and having little regard for the preconceived constraints for the genre they're considered part of. From where I'm standing, that's a cause for respect. To hear a band successfully reinvent a style in their own image is quite a sight to behold, and not something I've too often heard in black metal. It's too early to see if Altar of Plagues' third and final album will have the same lasting emotional resonance that "Mammal" had for me, but it's a healthy possibility. Criticisms of the album feeling patchy and lacking structure stand to reason, but it's that freedom from constraint that makes "Teethed Glory And Injury" such a bloody fascinating listen. I will reserve hopes that the band will eventually decide to get back together, but if that doesn't happen, I can't think of a better note for Altar of Plagues to have ended on.
From start to finish, without even trying the songs all flow so cohesively into the next, ultimately ending in an incredibly emotional finale. "Mills" sets the mood for the entire album, focusing on crafting a disturbing monument for the architecture of the rest of the songs to stand on. Eerie noises and outer-worldly ambiance really sets the backdrop for the intro to "God Alone", which immediately attacks the listener with sharp snare hits and off-time guitar riffs. The vocals really entice and add to the despair of everything as the band fades away with everything but the heavy-hitting drums and darkly delayed background, quickly picking up into a incredibly groovy and addictive guitar riff that really comes together once the drums tighten with everything else.
Songs like "Burnt Year" throw emphasis on how much the band really poured everything into what they are doing vocally as well with the vocalist (vocalists?) performing the signature black metal screeches, but rather than get thrown into the mix of many other metal bands that emotionlessly bark, growl, and whatnot, the full emotional pain of the vocalist is revealed as he comes to a near crying lament of someone close to him being killed or dying.
"Twelve Was Ruin" ends in a sudden drop into a droning bass line and ambiance, creating an almost terrifying beauty and a great breather to the pummeling riffs that were prior. "Reflection Pulse Remains" is probably my favorite song next to "God Alone" on the album and is a great closer to album, ending in a very epic, post-rock build and collapse. The album's dark mood is forever present and is so well-constructed, you can't help but play the whole album again on repeat with each song being just as important as the rest.
This is definitely my favorite black metal album I've heard recently. If you are looking for a more traditional black metal sound, Altar Of Plagues create such a rich, new sound that you won't find it here. Although the traditional tremolo picking and black metal screeches are apparent, it's not first priority with these guys, but the music is. I would argue that this is one of the heaviest albums I've ever listened to, not in the sense of riffs (but trust me, they exist on this album), but in terms of emotional aspects and the utter dark nature of the album. While at some times during the album, I have wondered the reason for certain recording choices (the absurd amount of bass driven towards the end of "God Alone" that almost overpowers everything), Altar Of Plagues, from beginning to end, leave you feeling disturbed and intrigued as they pull you from your head and leave you in a pitch black room by your lonesome to re-evaluate your life. They push the limits of black metal by creating powerful atmospheres and do so without having to subject themselves to any generic sounds or using corpse paint.
This one hurts. It’s always hard to see a band that appears to be on the upswing suddenly take an unexpected turn off the edge of a cliff. Unfortunately, Teethed in Glory and Injury, the third full-length from Altar of Plagues is such a nosedive.
Through two albums Altar of Plagues has proven to be versatile and adventurous. The debut White Tomb consists of a quartet of massive, sweeping pieces of post-black metal, while the sophomore release Mammal is closer in style to sludgy post-metal acts such as Neurosis and Isis. Despite the dramatic change in style, the basic compositional structure remained the same. Both records contain giant tracks, ranging from 8-19 minutes, which offer plenty of development and exposition. A small number of progressions are carefully unpacked, usually climaxing in a powerful crescendo.
The first thing any follower of Altar of Plagues will notice about Teethed in Glory and Injury is how short the songs are. Of the nine tracks, only three break the five minute mark and none break the ten minute mark. Now, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with writing shorter songs, but writing a compelling five minute song and writing a compelling ten minute song are totally different challenges. The members of Altar of Plagues fail to adjust their songwriting techniques for shorter pieces. Often it sounds like the group is carefully building toward something powerful when all of a sudden the song will just end. For example, “A Remedy for Fever” begins with a bluesy riff over a throbbing tribal drumbeat; after three minutes the band bursts into a scorching passage of black metal. It feels as if a glorious, multi-dimensional epic is kicking into the second stage, but then, the song abruptly dies.
Sadly, that’s as good as it gets on this record. More often there isn’t even an interesting riff to begin with. The group has become infatuated with mechanical and plodding sounds. Some of the riffs are tortuously blunt and cumbersome. Too often the riffs are just plain boring: no texture, bland melodies, no emotion. The lead off riff for “Burnt Year” is about as simple and colorless of a riff as you’re bound to find. Really, the raw, animalistic vocals are the only thing that consistently brings life to this record.
The one other noteworthy addition to the group’s sound is an increase in the number of industrial beats and pulsations. If embedded within more thoughtful compositions these passages would probably have more of an impact; however, considering their surroundings, the industrial passages don’t produce much of an impact.
While Teethed in Glory and Injury is a pretty big bust, fans can at least bank on the group venturing off in a different direction on its next release. The songwriting is something can definitely be fixed, either with more experience working with shorter songs or through a return to more expansive compositions. The infatuation with dull, plodding riffs is a little more alarming. If Altar of Plagues continues to indulge in such uninvolved riffs, its best days will have already have passed.
Originally written for Deafsparrow.com
"Teethed Glory and Injury", the third LP from Irish pack Altar of Plagues, continues the journey begun on "White Tomb" from a Wolves in the Throne Room-influenced dissonant black metal act with significant droning influences, through"Mammal" where the balance was tilting more towards the latter to a release where now the pendulum is leaning more strongly in favour of the decaying, urban, droning post-metal/noise vibe that makes their listening a sinister, uncomfortable vibe. This uneasy and intransigent journey, comprised of unexpected and jagged twists perceptibly designed to throw the listener off-course, is nothing if not courageous - the lengthy, cyclical compositions of old have been replaced by more normal length tracks with increased maturity, but, as typified by some of the odd-timed percussion sounds, it has hardly been done in the name of increased accessibility.
Sensing that there is no time quite like now to shed any semblance of adherence to a scene, "Teethed Glory..." - an intriguing title and album cover in its own right - is an enveloping and heavily textured listen which does not give away its myriad of secrets easily. Take "Twelve Was Ruin" - a 9-minute piece in the middle of the album that slowly proceeds through droning feedback for half its time before the depth is disturbed with a cacophony of riffs and rolling drums to herald an entirely new outlook on discordant black metal. These dichotomies between dark and light, droning waves and aggressive releases, deep transcendence and punctured spite are what "Teethed Glory and Injury" is all about.
"A Remedy And A Fever", "God Alone" "Found Oval and Final" all follow templates of approximate correlation in celebration of a production that allows for distinct clarity of riffs without sacrificing any of the unsettling depth that is the dominant aspect of the album. "Burnt Year", as one of the faster tracks on the album marries a fiery blast with a deep pounding in the background and a range of hysterical vocal styles, highlighted by way of informing the challenge that this record can be.
It has taken greater time and number of listens for the heart of Altar of Plagues third album to hove into view and I have no doubt this task will be too much for many - I myself still hanker for the rougher bleakness of an "Earth - As A Womb" from "White Tomb" when at times the meandering patterns lead the mind to drift elsewhere - but the merit of Altar of Plagues work here cannot be denied. Taking a listen through the band's discography displays why "Teethed Glory and Injury" could not have come before "White Tomb" or "Mammal" - this takes the building blocks from both and counters with a more crazed development of an already unique theme. Although I cannot profess to appreciating it quite the same I stand in awe of Altar of Plagues ability to have developed in such a fascinating fashion.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net