Album Review: ALTARAGE Endinghent
For context, let's start by taking this waaaaay back; all the way back to a time when death metal, entering its angsty adolescent phase, decided that it was high time for a little teenage rebellion.
The year was 1993. The location? Finland. Perhaps not the locale you might expect, given the geographical rise of death metal in the 90's. Nevertheless, there was certainly more to death metal at the time than what was being produced, packaged and exported from the sunny climes of Florida. The elite among you might've already surmised that said band is none other than the bizzare, unsettling, mind-fucking likes of Demilich. For those that haven't a clue, a brief description might read a little something like this:
… a collection of adept Finnish musicians spawned as a result of a grotesque, freakish orgy involving every Floridian band, Incantation, and Gorguts.
By this, I mean that Demilich possessed the vertigo-inducing cacophony of Incantation, the perplexity and technicality of Gorguts, and the underlying brutality of Florida's best. At the time, their unique twist on death metal was utterly mind-blowing, if not slightly over-the-head. In hindsight, it's safe to say that Demilich were about 20 years ahead of their time.
So, what is Demilich's legacy? Well, their influence can definitely be felt throughout the blasphemic, misanthropic and nihilistic contingent of today's aristocratic-yet-eccentric death/blackened death bands. This includes a whole bevy of bands from, believe it or not, Canada – bands such as Adversarial, Antediluvian, Mitochondrion, and Paroxsihzem (if you have not yet checked out any of these bands, cease the mindless self-indulgence you are currently absorbed in and do so promptly!). Each of the aforementioned bands has taken the formula laid-down by Demilich and plummeted it into never-before-heard depths of depravity.
With the stage set, it's time to get even uglier. How ugly? We are talkin inbred-middle-America-meets-shaved-bear kinda ugly (Google 'shaved bear' to understand just how ugly this is). Enter Spain's Altarage.
Formed back in 2015, the guys have one full-length under their belts in last year's critically-acclaimed NIHL. This album, more than anything, proved that Altarage – though clearly linked to Demilich's genealogy – were out to achieve something wholly unique. First and foremost, the guys took steps to distance themselves from their brethren through the inclusion of drone. Imagine, if you will, Sunn O)))'s 2005 masterpiece, Black One, covered by Australian experimental death metallers Portal, which is in turn covered by the masters of swirling chaos, Ævangelist, once again covered by Altarage. Yep. That pretty much sums it up. Simply crushing.
Not to be outdone by their own discordant eccentricities, Altarage are back to prove that things can become even more nebulous. It is immediately telling when the first few minutes of an album are sooooo bloody dreadful that it literally sends shivers down one's spine – like the hand of Satan drawing a crooked, chilling path down the vertebrae. Now, I'm not talking 'dreadful' as in terrible. No. I'm talking pissed-off poltergeist kinda 'dreadful'. The kind of dread that leaves stains in your drawers. This is the experience of Altarage's brand new album, Endinghent.
In what could be best described as 'Disequilibrium Phantasmic Death Metal', Endinghent begins with an ectoplasm-soaked romp into the realm of the metaphysical with the opening duo of "Incessant Magma" and "Spearheaderon". It's apparent that the guys put some thought into the immediate palatibilty of the songs, as there exists far more structure, with less effort expended on the Portal-centric bizzaro/erratic riffing. As an example of this – at just over halfway – the album drops what could be considered a bit of a foot-tapper in the song "Rift". Deconstructing this even further, one could strike similarities with – hear me out on this one – Korn. Before y'all lose your minds, let us first contemplate the defining qualities of everyone's favorite nu-metal band. First and foremost, it's those big, thunderous, down-tuned, simplistic, jump-da-fuk-up riffs, right? Well, Endinghent takes those same riffs and throws them into a spectre-filled abyss – replete with demons, malignant spirits, succubi, incubi, and swirling, dizzying, vomit-inducing death metal.
Like a childhood nightmare relived, Altarage have managed to once again arouse horrific visions of Poltergeist antagonist, Reverend Henry Kain. That lanky frame, sinister persona and predatory disposition are terrifyingly repurposed in Endinghent.