Altars - Paramnesia
Nuclear Winter
Death metal
8 songs (42:38)
Release year: 2013
Reviewed by Charles
Surprise of the month
As this is the week I finally get round to reviewing Colored Sands, it is fitting that I also get to cover the debut release of a band who seek to recapture that same sense of pushing death metal into increasingly alien and hostile terrain that you find with Gorguts. Of course there are a lot of groups doing that nowadays, and Altars initially seem to fit relatively closely with other modern purveyors of rumbling, super-abrasive death metal (like, say, Witchrist, Antediluvian, Teitanblood and so forth) as well as someone like Mitochondrion (the album title here is even a little similar to the latter’s Parasignosis). But these elements sit alongside various other things: most notably an apparent desire to pick up on the kinds of ideas Morbid Angel were using on Gateways to Annihilation and force them into new settings. This should be encouraged: Gateways… is a great album, and I miss that bone-crunching style of riffing they were using.

Paramnesia is therefore an imposing album; difficult to get to grips with at first, but ultimately rewarding. Like Deathspell Omega in black metal, one of its striking features is the organic, unpredictable flow of the songs. They have a spontaneous feel to them, not really based around specific riffs or recognisable structural formulae. Unlike Deathspell Omega, though, they are not a fast, agile band. Their music is often lumpen and suffocating, playing with the same kinds of horrible, deep tones you may find on Incantation’s Onwards to Golgotha. First track Mare opens with a reverberating percussive clunk, before taking a loose kind of ‘shape’ as a smear of double-kick drumming and scratching, scraping guitar. Listener suitably disoriented, this morass eventually coalesces into an utterly thuggish slow riff, all contorted and ill-at-ease (this is where the Gateways to Annihilation comparison first occurred to me). I love the sheer malevolence of these latter ideas. Khaz’Neh is perhaps the best example, with its down-tempo groove that is the closest Altars ever come to catchiness. The drumming is quite something: not necessarily the most technical, but they are just thumped with such wrath. On this track there is a clomping floor tom ‘solo’ break- no cymbals needed here to add any kind of lightness (see also the mad solo drum lines in Husk).

For an album so loud and brutal, it seems weird to use the word ‘enigmatic’, but that is what much of Paramnesis is. When they wrench themselves away from their compellingly ugly slower sections, they offer something authentically strange. Listen to the dark, rolling landscape of Solar Barge, with its swirling, shifting guitar patterns and its wanly flailing lead solo; the latter like the dying whine of ruined machinery. And this is not to mention the title track(s)- a trilogy- which trawls through the band’s imposing repertoire of ideas- truly a journey into the gloom, menaced by sudden thuds and torturous drum fills- before reaching a horrible metallic crescendo to finish. Ugh. Well-worth hearing.

Killing Songs :
Mare, Khaz'Neh, Solar Barge
Charles quoted 85 / 100
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