Review by Paul Castles
Release date: 15 July 2014
Promising doom quartet Ancient Altar have a self-titled debut album out – although initially only available in cassette form. It’s a four track release lasting 26 minutes so can probably most accurately be viewed as an EP rather than a full length album. That aside it’s a pretty fiercesome introduction with opening number ‘Tidal’ a moody start in which Ancient Altar’s heavy methodical approach gets its first airing.
The mood is foreboding with some tortured vocals barking over the top of some menacing rhythms that help build the sense of darkness that permeates this release. Ancient Altar are doomier than a child whose lost his puppy with some savagely sweet licks helping you along the way. Although the band is new all the members are experienced musicians with plenty of experience gained with other acts, notably Iron Mtn.
Longest track ‘Ek Balam’ builds itself up into a frightening beast of a track, commencing with a raging riff that sways this way and that, steadily heightening the mood and tension on the journey to the crypt. After five and a half minutes of swinging sludge sounds the tempo contorts itself into a twisted threatening form. When the vocals arrive they are so barbaric in their delivery you’re not entirely sure if they’re emanating from man or beast. These are the cries of the diseased and the damned filtering through the filth.
The mood is lightening with the third track ‘Feed’ which launches itself, complete with bellbottoms and fuzzy beards, into a headspinning hallucinogenic landscape straight from the 70s. Final track ‘Pulled Out’ has a warm soothing intro reminiscent of Pallbearer, and that’s a compliment of the highest order. The darkness envelopes you the further into the track you delve. The bludgeoning repetition is merciless in its execution and you’re under no illusion that the doom demons are circling again.
Ancient Altar only played live together for the first time earlier this year on the Shroud Eater/Orbweaver bill in the US but their performance immediately triggered a few ripples of interest to surface in the doom waters. They have some US West Coast dates booked for August and those fans who make the shows are in for a treat.
8 out of 10
- Ek Balam
- Pulled Out