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And perfection yet again - 100%

exumer, March 20th, 2007

The wind circles softly around the small Elizabethan chapel, which ruins grace the foggy, Anglo-Saxon landscape since times long past. And lo: A chiming bell, which spiritlike tells of times, when a Pagan Altar stood just at the place, which churchmen later would call holy. The “Samhein” begins and even as the “Cry of the Banshee” announces the death of the beloved, “The Crowman” awaits the “Demons of the Night”. Just then “The Sorcerer” stands lonely on his mountain throne and as his gaze wanders to the sky, “The Fly of the Witches” conjures the soon to begin “Dance of the Druids” at this time-honoured place of changes. “The Erl King” proceeds with the devouring of young souls, while he waits on “The Witches Pathway” for the “Rising of the Dark Lord” and his bony hands stretch against the non-foreboding wanderer. And still on chimes the lonely bell, until even death may die…

Grandeur is the word which describes the new album of Pagan Altar best. With the predecessor already being far beyond perfection, the lads from Pagan Altar achieved to top this again and deliver a classical, folk-influenced masterpiece, which is really non-competitive.
With most bands of the old school being crept in by wear out, Pagan Altar still play with a juvenile enthusiasm, which carries you along and doesn’t let you go. Alan’s guitarplay is top notch as we are used to and I really don’t know, why the guy is not much more known amongst guitar experts. One terrific lead follows the next and gets only interrupted by highly melodic and emotional solos. Trevor’s enchaining basslines and the precise drumming build the frame in which Alan’s guitarplay can fully evolve. While Terry’s unique voice still will be the crux of the matter for some, he not only does accentuate the prevailing mood of the songs with his vocals, but also creates the perfect counter-part of the guitar, so that a rounded whole emerges, that hovers somewhere between classic-epic Hard Rock, Folk- and Doom Metal. Valerie’s clear and expressive voice again builds the female counterpart to Terry’s voice just as in “Lords of Hypocrisy” and is much more integrated into the whole concept this time, as it has been on the predecessor. Finding a genre for Pagan Altar is truly a Sisyphus-work, because you cannot be just to the outstanding sound the band creates. Pagan Altar clearly are a genre in themselves. An honour, only few bands are granted with.

Contrary to the two prior albums, Pagan Altar also tread slightly new paths with their third work. This album is a lot more influenced by English folk than the predecessor or the doomy debut. But this fits the band quite well, because Terry’s singing and vocalstyle comes very close to some old folksingers. Also the guitarplay, mainly in the acoustic part, reminds me often of Anglo-Saxon folk. The album is more complex, deeper and more emotional as its predecessors have been and even after many listens delivers still enough unheard details, to keep the listener lastingly thrilled.

There are two songs to be particularly pointed out: “The Sorcerer” is an absolute hymn for the gods and has the best melody lines I ever heard from the band. Within this song Terry’s voice also develops his full emotional spectrum. Though different of style and musical conception of the band, the song can be described with the monumental emotionality of old King Crimson Ballads like “Epitaph”. The lyrics form the perfect foundation for the music and it always sends shivers down my spine, when Terry starts to sing,

„He stands upon his mountain throne
His arms held high he’s all-alone
Ashen face turned towards the sky
His eyes reflect a tormented soul
Endless years have took their toll
His mind too troubled to let him die”

The second song is named “The Erl King”. Those who know the poem of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe will already know which emotional sentiment this song has. I think I have hardly heard a song in my live, which gets the sadness and desperation across to such an extent, like it is already almost bodily sensible in Goethe’s poem. Terry’s adaptation of the lyrics has really to be pointed out, because they really live up to the original, what is in itself already a big praise. The musical realisation is perfect too and moves you to tears. It really has to be heard to believe it.

The album gets rounded by a very beautiful cover and the great design of the CD-version (however without the lyrics, which can be downloaded on the band’s homepage). The Vinyl-version will be released just as the predecessor by “The Miskatonic Foundation” (Spring 2007) and will be most probably just as fantastic in its optics and the design as the Vinyl of “Lords of Hypocrisy”.
Concluding I can state that I have found my favourite album of 2006 (of the new millennium?) and think, that most people will agree, after hearing this album in its full.