Altar Of Plagues
Teethed Glory And Injury
29 April 2013
by Rob McAuslan
“Impact” is a pleasingly kinetic word to actually say, one of the few that truly feels like the thing it’s trying to describe. The first syllable winds up to the plosive second, giving a real sense of the build and release involved in the whole process. It’s a word that Altar Of Plagues already undersand on multiple levels, with their two previous records landing them directly in the path of huge plaudits and reducing the attendees at their live appearances to stunned, rambling husks. Teethed Glory And Injury already promised to be a significant release for the first half of this year – and then people started to hear bits of it and that first syllable stretched itself to an impossible tension.
The release you want doesn’t come straight away, the building pulse and drone of ‘Mills’ only serving to shift your anticipation to fear. Incredibly, when ‘God Alone’ staggers its way through the murk, there’s little relief to be found even then – the Irish masters of longform bleakness may have appeared to have learned conciseness and restraint, based on the length of the new songs compared to old material, but this isn’t really the case. All of the fury present on Mammal and White Tomb is here, embodied in the blessed, excoriating blastbeat that finally unfurls itself from the lurching riff. It’s gone again nearly as soon as it arrives to be replaced with an industrial chug reminiscent of Celestial-era ISIS, broken with off-time chord stabs and finally giving way to a nightmarish take on Gregorian chanting and coruscating feedback. Altar Of Plagues have made huge changes to the length of their songs with only a few breaking five minutes in length, but the idea that this is due to any restraint is misguided – sharper focus and broadened influences are the backbone of this record.
Another major difference this time out is in the vocals – James Kelly and Dave Condon’s exhortations are pushed right to the fore on Teethed Glory And Injury, and it lends greater intensity to the whole album whilst distancing them yet further from the somewhat-inaccurate “Irish Wolves In The Throne Room” comparison that has followed them around a little. This gives Altar Of Plagues a newfound immediacy to match their dissonant, melancholic power, and should break the black metal shackles once and for all. It’s dark, oppressive, and loaded with some of the most vicious drum, vocal and guitar performances you’re likely to hear, but it isn’t black metal any more. You only need absorb the scorched beauty of ‘A Remedy And A Fever’ to really understand that, but by then you’ve already been subjected to the metronomic relentlessness of ‘Burnt Year’ and the haunting electronica that lurks within ‘Twelve Was Ruin’, so you’ll surely have come to this conclusion already.
Watch the video to ‘God Alone’ by Altar of Plagues:
More evidence, if you need it, is found throughout the rest of the album: ‘Scald Scar Of Water’ comes over like Godflesh taking on Portal, whilst album-closer ‘Reflection Pulse Remains’ channels My Bloody Valentine’s insistent tripped-out guitar work through a hellish carnival hall of mirrors. It’s a bold statement, a work of inspired genius, and a trip through some of the darkest regions of your own psyche.
Sounds Like: a band truly taking command of their own sound
Standout Tracks: A Body Shrouded, Twelve Was Ruin, Reflection Pulse Remains