Altar of Plagues – Teethed Glory and Injury
Release: LP, 2013 (Profound Lore)
Genre: Experimental Black Metal
Sonic Brethren: Anaal Nathrakh, The Body, Castevet
The Irishmen have come a long way from since their first full-length in 2009. Once a darling of Cascadian fans everywhere, the band quickly proved wrong those who pigeonholed them into the trendy sub-sub-genre. 2011’s Mammal began the transition of the band’s self-discovery and with Teethed Glory and Injury as their Profound Lore hat trick, they have truly found themselves. Gone are the double-digit tracks that grow slowly but surely into maddeningly devastating behemoths; the long, drawn-out intros that used to be a staple of the group have been parsed and peppered into the most unusual places. But track length doesn’t matter, the album flows seamlessly in and out of the bipolar madness for the full 50 minutes. Each song stands wonderfully and desperately alone, but transforms into something massively oppressive when consumed as a whole. The resulting sound is unlike anything one would expect from the group, creating a work that grasps at something darker, something atypically malicious.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the band’s first music video for the song “God Alone” and noted the odd visuals of both the piece and the album art. But as I delved into the depths of Teethed Glory the aesthetics began to make more and more sense. The twisting acrobatics of the figures both complement and mimick the album’s aural texture; odd and creepy, yet surprisingly fluid. It’s as if a black metal release were physically stretched, with a noisy doom experiment shoved inside to fill the gaps. Forays into tremolo norms are rare and used as an afterthought instead of a crutch. Pieces of industrial madness occasionally find their way into the din. While not all of that is entirely new for the style, the flourishes are streamlined and subtle; interjecting without pause.
With so many bands releasing so many predictable albums with the same predictable riffs, themes, and sounds, it’s beyond refreshing to put on an album by an artist you love and be completely and utterly surprised. It’s the sense of deep wonder that sucks you into the full-length, and you hear something past the music, something beyond. Teethed Glory and Injury is desperately bleak, with every note and every banshee-like scream piercing your very being, dragging you further into the madness.
Final thoughts: Unexpected and oftentimes unsettling, Altar of Plagues’ third album breaks free of any genre boundaries and finds the group carving deeper into their unique niche.