Judging by the scrawled logo and temple backdrop, I’d hoped this EP would be a black metal offering, since I was in the mood for something new in that vein. Nope, these Aussies play death metal, but of the odd and evocative variety, which is just as good.

There’s a lot of US influence here – dirty production, amelodic riffs, thick mid-tempo grooves and some squiggly, menacing Morbid Angel soloing. However, in an attempt to stand out from their forebears, Altars has focused on two key elements – one of them welcome, and one of them… not so much.

First the good: an atmospheric quality that recalls Mithras‘ expansive cosmic mystery. It’s not there all the time, but when it emerges, as on “Towers of Silence” or in the skittery, droning final minutes of “Fallen Beneath Seleucid Temples,”, it elevates the album beyond your typical muddy bashfest. It’s especially successful on “Besiege the Walls,” which features a climbing note progression that made me think of the Orcs scaling the ladders outside Helm’s Deep. And maybe that’s the title doing most of that conjuring, but it does suggest that one of Altars‘ core goals was to create something evocative and illustrative.

However, I don’t think they set out to create something annoying, but that’s where the other key element comes in – that damn guitar skrawk. You’ll know it when you hear it – a jagged screech that’s sometimes used as punctuation (“Transcending the Spectral Planes”) and sometimes as the riff itself (“Seleucid Temples”). Sometimes it sounds like nothing more than someone pulling their zipper up and down in the mic and then pitchshifting that beyond recognition. Maybe the skrawking is an attempt to add an extreme, cacophonous element to Altars‘ sound, but for me, it just came off as distracting and obnoxious.

Shame too, ‘cause the other stuff is interesting enough to warrant a look-out for their full debut. I just hope the skrawks were just an experiment and are not considered an integral part of Altars‘ sound.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
December 1st, 2008


  1. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Good review, man. I quite liked these guys. Love the caveman vocals, swarming guitars and the production where you can hear every instrument clearly while still being cavernous. Give us a full album, Altars!

  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    mmm swarming. good word.

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