Altar of Plagues - Tides
Burning World
Black Metal
2 songs (36:30)
Release year: 2010
Official Myspace
Reviewed by Charles
Ireland’s Altar of Plauges produced perhaps 2009’s best black metal debut album in the shape of the excellent White Tomb. Drawing on obvious influences like Wolves in the Throne Room, it achieved distinctive results with its rich textures and expanses of desolate blackened ambience, which were allowed to mingle with elements thrown in from leftfield (Watchers Restrained’s Khanate homage springs to mind). Tides picks up where that left off fairly seamlessly (though you won’t find anything quite as unexpected as avant-drone here), and those who wallowed in its melancholy atmosphere will find this EP as comfortable and unchallenging as a pair of old slippers.

Despite there being a mere two tracks, there is still 36 minutes of music here. Longer than plenty of albums, and thus a little frustrating (from a scoring perspective- we don’t give quotes to EPs) because it is more substantial and absorbing than any number of full lengthers. Throughout the length of these tracks you pass through landscapes that are varied but unfailingly melancholy, and you traverse them slowly enough to take in every nook and cranny of harmonic nuance, minimalist post-rock trails, and invigorating gusts of blastbeating wind.

That said Atlantic Light, initially at least, seems to drag the band back to something a little more primitive. It opens with a dissonant, sullen black metal waltz, ditching the lengthy build-ups of White Tomb for a more immediate gob of crankiness. Progress further on, though, and the familiar elements- tastefully managed keyboard sustains and soaring but minimalist lead guitar colouring- are actually in full voice. As ever with Altar of Plauges, the lengthy stretches of blastbeating never feel brutal or oppressive. The sustained, static feel of the harmonic instruments leaves the battering percussion seeming like the blasts of heat that keep a hot air balloon suspended over a glacial panorama.

The Weight of All treads more softly, with a quietly jangling, repetitive twang forming a gloomy path running through its first few minutes, as dark clouds of blackened distortion circle and converge above it. It repeatedly winds its way back to these minimalist rhythmic ideas throughout its first seven minutes, dragging them to from muddy trudge to windswept peak. But after that it becomes far darker, with an ill-tempered, clunking bass riff introducing a far more abrasive voyage through stop-start bursts of doomy thunder. The same eighth-note pulsation re-emerges at the death, bringing an intelligent and gripping composition back full circle.

Thus, a solid follow up to White Tomb that springs few surprises, consolidating the ground they’ve already taken. Altar of Plagues deserve much credit for their subtle and heartfelt take on black metal. Perhaps the downside here is that it doesn’t exactly leave you salivating for a new album. You’re essentially satiated by the end. Here, the band hit the spot for their admirers, without really breaking their stride.

Killing Songs :
Both are good
Charles quoted no quote
Other albums by Altar of Plagues that we have reviewed:
Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory and Injury reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Altar of Plagues - Mammal reviewed by Charles and quoted 85 / 100
Altar of Plagues - White Tomb reviewed by Charles and quoted 86 / 100
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