Nine Altars
The Eternal Penance

Kat Shevil Gillham is in yet another doom band, one of the bands she is the vocalist for heavy hitters Thronehammer, which is a personal favorite of mine.  For Nine Altars she does vocals and plays drums and this is the debut album, 3 songs at over 30 minutes..yes these are some long ass songs. Rather than following the path of Kat’s other doom/death projects, Nine Altars is purely doom metal and Kat hits some operatic highs with her vocal registers powerfully.

The 13+ minute title track opens with a cool and heavy guitar riff before erupting into a doom crawl with Kat belting out some strong vocals.  This is a pained and anguished type of song and depressing, to say the least.  Slow/plodding and most of all heavy.  In some respects, the guitar tone reminds me of the first Trouble album with smatterings of Candlemass all over the place.  Throw in some Solitude Aeturnus as well, while you’re at it.  The buildup vocals around the 2.15 section are exceptional and if you like those Messiah Marcolin Candlemass albums you will smile from ear to ear at the vocals on this album.  The guitar solo at the 4 minute mark cuts right through the dense fog of this heavy song.  It’s a piercing slow solo that erupts at the perfect time.

There is one thing I want to mention if the band intends to play live, this title track has vocals for the entire song, for the most part.  Singing for 13 minutes straight and playing drums, as well – good luck Kat, make sure you are heavily hydrated and have copious amounts of protein in you prior to the live show, and maybe a good throat coat, an hour prior to performing, to help those vocal cords and breathing exercises.   Some helpful singing advice from one singer to another.

“The Fragility of Existence” is a short number at a brisk 12 minutes.  First and foremost this is a killer song title.  This particular song has a slightly more upbeat and less depressive tone than the title track opening the release.  Excellent guitar harmonies early on.  The isolated guitar riff around the 5-minute mark, then traverses into a slower and more depressive and very bleak passageway.. It’s a dark section!  A nifty guitar solo lifts this area and Kat’s vocals come in more and sound very pained as she belts out some vintage Candlemass, stylized operatic vocals.  The prevailing guitar riff, throughout the song, has a strong Black Sabbath tone, so all doom heads should jump all over this.

“Salvation Lost” is the shortest track at eight-and-a-half minutes and is slightly speedier in tempo, still doom, but just a tad quicker than the prior songs.  Guitar solos come in pretty early and the vocal tone cadences are well-planned out and extremely catchy.  This last song actually has some moments of fewer vocals, for brief time periods, and as an album closer the band picked a good song to end the album.

Nine Altars has created a damn fine doom metal release with The Eternal Penance.  The production is crisp and heavy and the sound is most of all organic-how I prefer my metal to sound.  My only issue with the release is I would have liked, maybe the amount of vocals all over each song, to be scaled back a bit.  That would allow the music to breathe a bit more because the music gets overshadowed during certain moments across the songs.  The vocals are beautiful and powerful – sometimes a less is more approach is needed, especially to have those heavy doomy moments cut through a bit more.

If you enjoy your doom metal heavy, depressive, catchy and well played than look no further and get this at once.  Killer stuff!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Frank Rini
March 24th, 2023

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