Pagan Altar - The Lords of Hypocrisy
Oracle Promotions
Traditional Metal/NWOBHM
9 songs (51'07")
Release year: 2004
Pagan Altar, Oracle Promotions
Reviewed by Adam
Archive review
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal forever changed the landscape of metal music. Its heyday in the late 70's and early 80's gave rise to some of the biggest names in metal history. Yet for every success story from this era, there is a band who faded into obscurity. For every Iron Maiden, there is a Satan. One of the bands who falls into the latter category of criminally unknown is Pagan Altar. Though they formed in 1978, their first release was 20 years later in Volume 1, a collection of widely bootlegged tracks from their early years. Since that time, their brand of traditional and bluesy doom had been building an underground fanbase. I cannot tell you why this band went unnoticed by the majority of the metal community for so long, but I can tell you that you would be hard pressed to find a traditional doom band in the vein of Black Sabbath that is as consistently kickass as Pagan Altar. If you, like many, are new to this band, their second full-length The Lords of Hypocrisy is as good a place to start as any.

Since inception, Pagan Altar has been the brainchild of founding relatives Terry and Alan Jones. Other members have come and gone (alot, in fact), but Terry's nasally vocals and Alan's wonderful array of riffs have always been the soul of the band. The title track on The Lords of Hypocrisy is prime evidence. After a cryptic organ intro, Alan swoops in with a breathtaking riff that will burrow its way into your head and stay there for days. Seriously, if this riff doesn't have you nodding your head, you have problems. The production is vintage sounding enough that if I told you this album was released in 1984 instead of 2004, you would have no reason to doubt me if you had no prior knowledge. As I said before, Terry's vocals are nasal sounding and unique if nothing else. I suspect this will be the main complaint for first time listeners. If you are one of these, give them some time. I was not crazy about the vocals the first time I heard them, but over time I have come to appreciate what they bring to the overall sound. They fit very well with the aura of this band, and while they don't stand out, they also don't detract from Alan's superb riffing, which should be the focal point anyway.

The Lords of Hypocrisy contains music composed in the earlier years of the band, and is said to be the completion of a long planned concept album lyrically dealing with mankind's inhumanity to itself. The band's official biography on their website contains the full story on the frustrating process of recording the album and is an interesting read for fans. Since these songs are not really new, anyone lucky enough to catch one of Pagan Altar's legendary live shows many moons ago will likely recognize many of the songs. I can only imagine witnessing firsthand the epic track Armageddon accompanied by the stage props and atmostphere used by the band (hooded monk robes, coffins, and altars to name a few). To date the longest track put to record by Pagan Altar, Armageddon contains many instances of wonderfully composed back and forth between Terry and Alan. Vocal passages are soon countered by a searing guitar lead from Alan's seemingly endless supply. Not many bands can claim the audible chemistry found on this album as a weapon in their arsenal, and it shines brightly here.

I do not intend to bore you with my prolonged gushing over the quality of the guitar work on this album, as I could go on for awhile. Every song, aside from the short and strange acoustic segue track The Devil Came Down to Brockley, has multiple memorable guitar lines. The last track I do want to highlight is The Masquerade. Building in crescendo-esque fashion off of an acoustic intro, Alan unleashes perhaps his best solo around the halfway point, setting the table for a second half which takes a heavier and more guitar oriented doom approach as the smooth guitar riffs weave in and out effortlessly.

Pagan Altar may have finally begun to get some much needed exposure in doom circles within the last decade, but there are still far too many in the metal community who know little or nothing of this band. If you can manage to find any of their albums for a relatively reasonable price, be sure to check them out, particularly if you are a fan of old Black Sabbath or Witchfinder General. Hopefully, the future will see Pagan Altar obtain the notoriety they deserved almost 30 years ago.
Killing Songs :
The Lords of Hypocrisy, Armageddon, The Masquerade
Adam quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by Pagan Altar that we have reviewed:
Pagan Altar - The Room of Shadows reviewed by Andy and quoted 89 / 100
Pagan Altar - Mythical & Magical reviewed by Thomas and quoted 95 / 100
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