Altar of Plagues, Mammal - Review

It seems a lot of people want to place Ireland's Altar of Plagues in the pantheon of bands making "post-black metal"; that is to say, black metal bands integrating elements of post-rock into their sound. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as there are a number of bands that do that, and do it well. My only problem is that I don't understand why Altar of Plagues are put in that category. I personally don't hear it.

The first two things that come to mind when I listen to their new album Mammal (Profound Lore/Candlelight) are that it is 1) very dark, and 2) very heavy. These things are obviously desired in most metal releases as a rule, but the gentlemen from Cork have really turned things up for this one, their best work to date.

The band's use of quiet to loud (and back again) dynamics creates an atmosphere of intensity and drama, and this may have a lot to do with why the band has become associated with post-rock. But whereas the drama in a great deal of post-rock sounds manufactured and trite, Altar of Plagues maintain the organic and passionate feel that has characterized and defined their unique brand of black metal since the Sol EP was released in 2008.

The tremolo-picked guitars that characterize so much atmospheric black metal are only used minimally on this album, while slower, sludgier, more doom-like riffs are closer to the norm, and this gives the album a heaviness of unparalleled intensity in black metal releases this year. Indeed, everything about this album is intense. The production brings the plodding basslines and controlled yet cacophonous drums to the forefront, and the vocals have never sounded so remarkably confident and convincing.

If you take nothing else from this album (you will), you'll at least know that Altar of Plagues aren't wasting anyone's time. They've been one of the most original sounding bands in black metal for the last couple of years, and with Mammal, they appear to have perfected their signature sound, so full of passion and presence. If you've enjoyed their previous work, I'd have to think you'll enjoy this as well, as it is their most stunning achievement yet.

The CD can be ordered now from Profound Lore, while a CD with different artwork and a 2xLP preorder are available from Candlelight. These things are all available from the band as well, along with some great looking t-shirts and hoodies.This band deserves your support, so get on it.


Anonymous said...

One of the best albums of the year and their best effort for me.

†HAXAN† said...

I totally agree with Llanero... one of the best in 2011.