Altarage
NIHL

Much like death metal’s brutality arms race in the ‘90s, there now seems to be one to become the most inhuman. Spain’s Altarage is one of the latest contenders in this far-flung arena. Their MMXV demo from last March was quickly picked up and released on cassette by Sol y Nieve and 7” by Iron Bonehead Productions. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, there’s also the claim that the anonymous band members are veterans within the metal underground, and the level of maturity on display here certainly backs that up.

While most other acts of this ilk can sometimes get lost in their own madness and a bit too bogged down in murk, Altarage keeps their insanity focused and lean. They’ve managed to capture a monstrous, obscure sound without burying every instrument, so you can actually hear what they’re doing as they tear at your flesh and drill into your ear holes. Some powerful riffs even emerge amidst the droning and churning of their unhindered ferocity — the massive doom riff that drops right in the middle of “Graehence” is especially crushing. And, the variety of their attack keeps you on your toes as they effortlessly transition between sophisticated Incantation-meets-Mortician-like blasting, funereal droning, and even some Godfleshy grooves, like in the cleverly-titled “Womborous.” Each song never stays at one tempo for too long while always maintaining its frightening intent and efficiency. None of the tracks run over 5:15 and the whole assault is over in just 36 minutes, which is about perfect for this style.

Aside from the vocals, which sound like they were recorded through a wormhole from a hell dimension, Altarage doesn’t come across as otherworldly as Ævangelist or as mechaniacal as Autokrator, but their more structured and balanced approach makes a more lasting and powerful impact. Along with the latest album from Abyssal, NIHL may represent a shift toward more memorable songwriting within this loosely defined sub-subgenre that’s been pushing the limits of death metal. The inhuman arms race may be over, but we’re the winners.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Adam Palm
February 12th, 2016

Comments

  1. Commented by: vugelnox

    “NIHL may represent a shift toward more memorable songwriting” thank fuck too as this genre, while appreciated for its atmosphere and attention to detail in creating mood, certainly could use a boost on that front. Songs that stick in your head! Always good!


  2. Commented by: TowardsTheHum

    Tasty fucking album!


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