Altar Of Plagues album review and ‘Scald Scar Of Water’ stream

By on 12 April 2013

Altar Of Plagues new album ‘Teethed Glory & Injury’ receives 5/5 from José Carlos Santos in Terrorizer #235, as well as being album of the month. Here’s what José thinks of their new album, and you can listen to a stream of the track ‘Scald Scar Of Water’.

Altar Of Plagues - Teethed Glory And Injury

Altar Of Plagues were born different. Even on their earliest output – those two first EPs that are essentially proto-AoP, at least by the colossal standards they have set afterwards – there was an intangible feeling that set them apart from whatever comparisons us hacks struggled to make in our reviews, grasping at straws to try to make everyone else understand how essential this band seemed poised to become.

Conceptually and aesthetically they have always been completely incomparable to anyone else, offering murky and opaque amalgamations of urban and oppressive yet deeply organic themes, and though musically it was accepted that the band operated more or less on the outskirts of the also vague atmospheric/post black metal territory defined by Wolves In The Throne Room, each release has seen them break the few shackles that still remained of any such association. While ‘Mammal’ already seemed like something close to the limit of this liberation without just going all weird for weird’s sake, ‘Teethed Glory & Injury’ unbelievably sees Altar Of Plagues venture a million miles further into leftfield, deconstructing and reassembling everything we thought we knew about them and extreme music itself in the process, and all this without that ‘weirding out’ pitfall that lesser bands face when they try to go beyond what they’re capable of, without forcing any sort of experimentation for its own sake.

The magic of this album is that ‘experimental’ is far from the first word you’ll have to describe it when you listen to it. It flows as perfect as ever, especially as they have eschewed the four-long-songs format (another shackle gone), and the typical AoP gut-wrenching impact is achieved in new ways that greatly heighten it. In short, it’s a disorienting work. That’s a word that might be banded about more often than it should when it comes to music writing, as we scramble for ways to describe dozens of records a month, but in all honesty there aren’t that many truly disorienting records. From the past decade, Pyramids’ self-titled debut, Mayhem’s ‘Ordo Ad Chao’ and Swans’ towering ‘The Seer’ do come to mind quickly, but precious little else. ‘Teethed Glory & Injury’ is spawned from a similar mental place as those twisted milestones, especially in the way that it seeps into your subconscious even if you don’t know all that much about it.

Altar Of Plagues

 

The opening three-part deconstruction crescendo of ‘God Alone’, ‘A Body Shrouded’ and ‘Burnt Year’ is a perfect example of that. An incredible 14-minute sequence of fractured genius, complex and layered yet woefully raw at the same time, featuring the ultimate musical paradox of organic-sounding electronics, during what sounds like the majestic opening of ‘Neptune Is Dead’ being stretched out in the sun and torn apart by flesh-eating mythical beasts… all that will make you feel things, and it will be up to you to figure out why.

Wisely, the band has chosen to not overly dissect the album’s concept this time, and it doesn’t feel like any pretentious self-indulgence. Rather, it’s a bold move for such a dense and shadowy work, which coupled with the unusual artwork and cryptic song titles and lyrics, will allow for a remarkably individual exploration of these songs. Why the apex of the record, the placid second half of ‘A Remedy And A Fever’ and the first part of ‘Twelve Was Ruin’ (before it turns into a shrieking inferno), is a soothing valley instead of a peak, when everything before it seemed like a tortuous climb, why the surprisingly clean underlying melody of closer ‘Reflection Pulse Remains’ shines so luminously after almost 50 minutes with your head buried in disease and dark earth, those are all questions that aren’t easy, and if you’re going to live with this record for a while (and you will want to, despite its initially antagonist nature) it’s up to you to figure them out. And any others you will have yourself too. Don’t shy away from that path, however. It will be one of the most fascinating journeys of the year.

[5/5] José Carlos Santos

Check out the Candlelight website.
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