Hailing from Basque County, Spain, enigmatic four piece Altarage have recently released their début album Nihil. Their identities are hidden behind their hooded costumes, bur with precision and terror worthy of this name they play a brand of blackened death metal coming straight from the abyss.
Altarage’s production is decidedly caustic, creating a huge churning maelstrom of sound, there’s nothing raw or amateurish from them here. The guitar sound is huge, a dense downtuned approach that’s exceptionally heavy, a huge grinding tone completely dominating the mix. Altarage are far from a band to rely on tone over substance though, and their technical prowess and range of dissonant riffs throughout the album are fantastic – they’re far removed from the Incantation worship of many abyssal bands. In the faster sections they churn, grind and twist with an unsettling dissonance much like Malthusian, constantly evolving organically over the length of each track with exciting creativity while never letting up on the insane heaviness. When they do slow down the reverb added to the dense tone gives the crushing riffs an epic monumental feel that provides the perfect addition to the churning fury. All the riffs are creative and complex meaning it takes a few listens to the album to really get any of them to get stuck in your head, as Altarage seem more interested in assaulting the grey matter than lodging themselves there.
The vocals are fairly quiet in the mix, beastly low growls and shrieks that become just another element in the abyssal wall of sound, serving to add an extra dimension to the insanity, though on Vortex Pyramid they really shine with an especially vicious performance. It’s also a great performance from the drummer who can go from keeping the pace with technical precision and minimal flair on opener Drevicet, to an absolute speed demon on Vortex Pyramid and the end of Baptism Nihil.
As previously mentioned Nihil is an album that’s just so damned unrelentingly heavy it takes a few listens to really get into the nuances of the whole thing, but after a few listens one can discern that each track isn’t just a slab of monolithically heavy metal, but a well written piece on its own merits. Drevicet is incredibly well paced, moving between through sections of mind-bendingly dissonant grinding riffs to those slow epic crashes of guitar, while Graehence might be the closest thing to anything remotely ‘catchy’ on the album, when the wash of noise kicks into that main riff, a stomping behemoth carried along with mid paced pounding drums in a simple yet effective piece of blackened death metal. Baptism Nihil starts of as a slower doomier number, but picks up more and more as the track goes on, ending up in a rhythmic pounding assault, while Vortex Pyramid goes all out from start to finish. Altars is another track that twists back and forth between tempos with complex technical riffs edging out from within the thick wall of sound and blastbeats, occasionally slowing down into strange atmospheric sections.
Fans of Malthusian and Portal will enjoy this dissonant and exciting début release. It’s only 35 minutes long buit’s so mind-numbingly heavy and has so many ideas it feels a lot longer, an exceptional beast of an album.
Nihil can be streamed in full/purchased below and Altarage can be found on facebook here
Altarage’s first and so far only announced date will be at this year’s Amplifest in Porto.