As the years plodded along after the release of Altars‘ impressive 2013 debut album Paramnesia, it began to seem that the band were dead and buried. Its members occasionally surfaced in other groups and projects, but Altars itself remained silent for what turned into more than eight long years. In part this was due to a debilitating illness affecting co-founding member Cale Schmidt (vocals and bass). Yet finally Altars have emerged again, renewed and even more formidable than before.
How this finally happened is a tale we at NCS don’t yet know, but we do know that it included the involvement of Convulsing‘s Brendan Sloan as the band’s new bassist and vocalist, joining founding guitarist Lewis Fischer and founding drummer Alan Cadman. Together, this formidable trio have recorded a new album named Ascetic Reflection that’s now set for release on July 8th by Everlasting Spew Records.
Paramnesia revealed an adventurous songwriting spirit, and that hasn’t changed on the new record, but if you know the first album, you’ll also easily discern changes in the new one, and the song we’re premiering today is a vivid example of Altars‘ evolution.
In many ways, “Luminous Jar” is a crazed yet intricate romp, bolting in different directions as it furiously charges ahead. Yet the varying frenzies are tied together, in part because the mutating fretwork patterns recur in ways that prove to be insidiously “catchy”, and in part because the song as a whole repeatedly deliver jolts of different kinds that become a vital part of its “personality”.
A musical madhouse from the first seconds, “Luminous Jar” erupts in a high-speed vortex of jarring and wildly roiling guitars, maniacal drum flurries, siren-like leads, and voracious growls. It gets the blood pumping immediately — but it suddenly changes. Eerie wailing tones flow and moan, punctuated by grand chord fanfares and explosive percussive detonations. but this proves to be only a brief, atmospheric but still arresting, pause before the insanity explodes again, albeit with new melodic accents that sound dismal as well as demented.
As the song proceeds further, the music slashes and booms, stops and starts, mewls and quivers, spasms in febrile convulsions, and boils with riffage that channels derangement and despair. Hideous snarls and ravenous growls appear and re-appear along with militarized blast-beat assaults, and the jolts that the song delivers continue through to the end, thanks to savage bursts of fretwork frenzy and skull-busting rhythmic grooves.
This new song is one of eight tracks on this 40-minute record. In its conception, as revealed through the press materials, the album “interrogates one’s perception of the self”. “The opposing halves of the work, each reflecting outward from its centre, form mirrors by which to measure humanity’s true face — inverse views of its ouroboric cycles, mortal burdens, and futile lust for power, knowledge and the divine”.
Cale Schmidt himself appears on the album, providing additional vocals on “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”. In addition to guitar work, Lewis Fischer also deploys the Soma Labs Ether on “Black Light Upon Us”, slide guitar on “Opening the Passage”, and bowed cymbal and Soma Labs Dvina on “Inauspicious Prayer”. Brendan Sloan also performed additional guitar leads on “Opening the Passage”.
To help complete the album, Adam Burke created a sweeping gatefold cover painting, and Derek Setzer added a series of internal collages. Ascetic Reflection was recorded, engineered, and mixed by both Brendan Sloan and Lewis Fischer, and Brendan Sloan also mastered it.
Everlasting Spew will release the record on CD, tape, and digital formats, with vinyl treatment expected in late 2022 (you’ll find pre-order links below). They recommend it for fans of Ulcerate, Gorguts, Portal, and Dead Congregation.
And finally, if you don’t know, two other tracks were previously released for streaming, “Perverse Entity” and “Ascetic Reflection“, and you can listen to both below.