(Here’s Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by the Spanish extremists Altarage, which will be released on January 25 through Season Of Mist (CD/LP/Digital) and Sentient Ruin (cassette tape).)
It’s weird to think that, sometimes, I forget exactly what albums I’ve reviewed or who I’ve written about here at NCS.
I suppose it shouldn’t be that surprising. After all, although I’m not sure exactly how many articles I write each year I know that it’s a lot… and all alongside the steadily growing demands of my day job and my own band(s).
Case in point, it wasn’t until I did a quick search of the site that I was reminded that I actually wrote about Altarage’s second album, the monstrous Endinghent, in late 2017, describing it as:
“…one of the grimmest, most gruesome albums of the year…”
And while it’s a description I still stand by, all the signs and portents suggest that The Approaching Roar is an even grimmer and more gruesome record yet.
For those unfamiliar with the work of these Spanish sadists, their particularly cavernous and crushing brand of metallic malevolence owes a heavy debt to the dense, discordant Death Metal of Incantation as well as the more blackened approach of Necros Christos, and their previous two albums – 2016’s Nihl and the previously mentioned Endinghent – found several writers drawing comparisons with the similarly scorching and suffocating sounds produced by artists such as Abyssal, Ulcerate, and Withered.
In other words, Altarage are an obnoxiously heavy band, and anyone with a weak heart (or mind) would be advised to leave the room immediately and go for a nice lie-down instead.
Those of you who choose to stick around, however, not only agree to waive any liability on our part for what you’re about to experience, but will also quickly discover just why Altarage are being mentioned so frequently alongside those much more famous (and infamous) names above.
For one thing, the churning riffs and punishing rhythms that underpin these songs – capable of lurching from a bone-crunching grind to an all-out sonic firestorm within the space of a single, strangled breath – are as vital, as visceral, and as volatile, as anything you will have heard (or are likely to hear) this year.
Hell, the band’s guitar tone is practically noxious enough to be prohibited under the Geneva Convention, while the drumming on tracks like “Inhabitant” and cataclysmic opener “Sighting” (two of the album’s major stand-outs) is so devastating that it could potentially be considered a war crime.
But that’s not all that The Approaching Roar has going for it, and there is, for those willing to look closely enough, a certain cruel method behind all this madness, which manifests itself most clearly in the more claustrophobic and atmospheric moments of the album.
For as much as the destructive energy and almost overwhelming intensity unleashed on tracks like “Knowledge” and the merciless, Meshuggah-meets-Portal assault of “Cyclopean Clash” can sometimes border on the edge of total anarchy, it’s the ominous, oppressive atmospherics found on these tracks – as well as on similarly caustic cuts like “Urn” and “Chaworos Sephelln” – which really serve to tie the whole record together and make it more than just the sum of its pandemonic parts.
It’s not all sunshine and roses (or whatever the Black/Death equivalent is), however, as there are moments (particularly during “Hieroglyphic Certainty” and slightly under-developed closer “Engineer”) where it seems like the band lose sight of the bigger picture, and are content simply to sow chaos and confusion for its own sake, rather than as part of any sort of grand, overarching plan.
Thankfully, while a little bit more tightening up of the songwriting here and there certainly wouldn’t hurt, ultimately The Approaching Roar is one of those records that hits you like a veritable force of nature, and leaves you with no other option except to kick and struggle as hard as you can to keep your head above the water.