Altars – Aesthetic Reflection

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Aussie death metal three-piece Altars have finally returned after nine years of hiatus. 'Ascetic Reflection' is the follow-up album to 2013's 'Paramnesia'. Although they had already acquired a reputation for becoming intensely brutal, the sophomore builds on a dissonant crescendo. In terms of composition Altars have exceeded many bands by creating their own sound, thus reaching high levels of accuracy. The long years of effort seem to have paid off rather nicely for this Aussie band. The new album is one gigantic, brutal slab of technical death metal that you shouldn't miss.

Altars’ ability to channel other styles seems to be evident: if you dismantle the musical fragments, you will notice the simple melodies, sludge, and dissonant riff structures constructed into their songs. Though the songs are particularly dissonant, massive twists and jarring riffs are displayed on the opening track ‘Slouching Towards Gomorrah’. Altar’s ability to strip down disharmonic riffs utilizes harsh riffing to strike the climax of intensity. ‘Perverse Entity’ is piercingly dissonant, sounding heavily brutal with more of a monochromatic modification style and riffs that have the tendency to sound equally chaotic.

The eight songs seem more complex and I don’t see long-time fans not finding any interest in the newest material. The extra content of the noise and the drumming pace foray into something far more brutal than the previous album. ‘Luminous Jar’ hurtles towards breakneck speed. Both the drums and the guitars explode in searing riffs and voluminous blasting. Although there are some similarities to acts like Portal, Altars takes a straightforward technical approach. ‘Ascetic Reflection’ seems to tackle sludge and brutality with the abrasive riffs issuing forth the chaos. ‘Black Light Upon Us’ evokes a woe-inspired atmosphere as the guitars move from the traditional territory of death into bleak guitar riffs. The song structure is arranged in such a way that the emphasis is laid upon forming layers and riffs extending from slow to  atmospheric soundscapes.

Everything seems to be molded into densely packed riffs. ‘Ascetic Reflection’ is a complex track: the riffing that follows in is skewered onto the blasting drums. With that being said, the sophomore effort presents a brutal slab of dissonant quality, although the slow-paced sections show rather diverse riffing methods. The focus on the atmosphere is yet another aspect of the album, though I’d say this isn’t an easy one to get into. If you are into bands like Gorguts and Portal, then rest assured that you will encounter plenty of swaggering riffs. ‘Anhedonia’ delivers complex and technical riffing with some resemblance to Morbid Angel, while the drums execute some powerful double bass kicks. Blast beats explode like burning lava from which the guitars and the drums provide acerbic brutality. With this unprecedented scale of violence, there’s a harsh tone in the growls groping for crude atonality. The album daringly shows the sheer power of writing dissonant riffs.

Instrumentally the sophomore pushes for new boundaries: although the songs are measured by their sense of competence ‘Opening the Passage’ continues to focus on the atmosphere and cosmic noises. While this track, in particular, stands out for the excellent blend of drums, bass and guitars, it shows the innovative work of composition for merging different styles into one. Musically the Aussie group has nailed each song and cemented a powerful sound. The rhythm guitars weave unpredictable tunes, yet still manage to make each song stand perfectly on its own.

The crude songwriting is a manifestation of skillful accomplishment. This is why the sophomore gives enough room for violence and dissonance resulting in abrasive sophisticated song structures. Still, the album is tightly paced at times, though some of the songs nicely segue giving them an aspect of professionalism. In many ways ‘Ascetic reflection’ doesn’t sound like your regular death metal album. The focus on creating depth to the songs provides a different experience for the listener and this somehow allows the songs to sound more balanced. But indeed there is a lot of swaggering from the Aussie members Brendan Sloan (vocals, bass guitar), Lewis Fischer (guitars) and, Alan Cadman (drums).

The final track ‘Inauspicious Prayer’ starts with some spectral samples as the track leans into slow atmospheric instrumentation. The excellent guitar work provides a sonic thriller for the listener. Without any vocals contributing to the music, it wonderfully borders on the dark menacing brooding riffs.

REVIEW SCORE

  • Music / Songwriting 8/10
  • Vocals / Lyrics 8/10
  • Mix / Production 8/10
  • Artwork & Packaging 8/10
  • Originality 8/10
8

‘Ascetic Reflection’ is definitely an evolution from this Aussie death metal band that proves to be laden with complexity, sludgy riffs and rhetorical technicality.

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