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Alterbeast - Immortal - 95%

The_Harvester, May 4th, 2014

It’s encouraging to see that out of the great swathe of artists emerging from the colourful metal scene of Sacramento, California, there are those who are wholeheartedly resigned to pushing forward intricate tech death in the vein of The Faceless and Decrepit Birth. Back in 2009, resident deathsters Dismal Lapse produced Eon Fragmentation, a record that bowled me over with it’s ruthless precision. The album left me wondering what was next to come out of the West coast capital, but what I didn’t know was that it’d be at the hands of a band that goes by the rather enigmatic name Gary Busey Amber Alert.

This was in 2010. Fast forward to present day and Alterbeast as they are now known, have let loose their long-awaited debut Immortal, what frontman Cam Rogers (in an interview with blabbermouth.net) proclaims to be “spawned from hard work, dedication, and downright brutal musicianship”. He’s not wrong. From the very moment the gentle opening strains of “Flesh Bound Text” rapidly descend into relentless noodling, tremolo picking and frankly inhuman drumming, there’s no question that tears of blood were shed in the making of this record. With the drummer ex-Cattle Decapitation/All Shall Perish and bassist ex-The Black Dahlia Murder, there’s undoubted expertise at the helm, but no one’s questioning these guys instrumental skills that’s for damn sure.

There’s an undeniably familiar ring to many of the passages on Immortal, examples of which are displayed on tracks like “Vile Remnants” and “Mutilated Marvel”. Catching the album mid play-through I’d be convinced I was listening to The Black Dahlia Murder, with a matching guitar tone and vocal performance a dead ringer for TBDM’s Trevor Strnad. The band have made no secret of this influence, citing them as inspiration on more than a few occasions. But most important is Alterbeast’s ability to punctuate each song with an unmistakable quality that truly makes its mark on the album as a whole. From the tightly-wound close picking/double bass groove of “Decimus Divine” to “Ancient’s Retribution” where the off-time fret tapping sounds like a guitar warehouse explosion.

Its a small trade-off then that the album feels a bit on the short side, not at all uncommon for technical death, but in this case it feels like you’ve been cheated. At eight tracks clocking in to just under a half hour, you’ll be left fiending for another dose, but this speaks to the album’s quality more than anything else. Immortal has reportedly been in production for quite a while, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the band may have more material set for release in the not too distant future. I’m happy to wait for now, because since the promo dropped my speakers haven’t had any time to recover, and I’ve got Immortal to thank for that.

It’s very rare for such a young band to put a genre’s reigning champions at risk in the way Alterbeast have. It’s a stunning debut, with one track after the next brimming with a vacuum tight production, distinct character and punishing brutality. What we have here is a sure fire contender for album of the year, and this early on that’s no small accomplishment. So far, 2014 looks to be an outstanding year for metal.

Written for The Metal Observer