Let me start off by saying I feel that most death metal bands have fallen into a rut. They’ve followed the same formulaic path for a while because it’s successful, good, but most of all, because it’s safe. I had yet to find a true death metal band (one that doesn’t blend genres, because it’s hard to follow a singular formula when using multiple genres) that strays from that beaten path and slides out of that groove while staying within the genre. Enter Altarage, a Spanish death metal band from Bilbao that take that rut so many people feel comfortable in and destroy it. They scratched the area around it so much that the rut collapsed in on itself and became one big gaping hole on the face of the record that is death metal. This is a band whose release shook me to fucking core. This release is called Nihl, and it is due out on February 26th, 2015.
They’ve collaborated with not one, not two, and not even three labels, but FOUR. They’ve had the privilege of working with Sentient Ruin Laboratories and Sol Y Nieve for a tape and digital release, Iron Bonehead Productions for an LP release, and Doomentia Records for European tape distribution. If any of these names ring a bell, it’s because they deal some of the most vicious and incredible heavy and alternative music on the scene right now, and for bearing that kind of weight of having to live up to the standards of fans and personnel, Altarage wasted no time in investing a fuckton of violence into one release to not only blend in on these labels, but to stand out from the rest of these artists.
Altarage have made an album that channels what I believe to be the essence of a war. A war of not only this world, galaxy, universe, realm, dimension, or anything like that, but a war of mental depths and monstrous emergence from the pits of the parts of yourself you’re not quite sure you ever truly wanted to know. This album reaches to the edges of your brain and tugs on the corners. It’s trying to rip up the wallpaper in your mind through smoke-filled vision and fuzz-laden screens. It only has eight tracks, but I swear on my life it feels like eternity wrapped in the robes of grim reapers of all pasts, presents, and futures – and it is spectacular.
It starts off with the song “Drevicet,” a whirlwind of noise followed by a tornado of instruments. It’s got double bass strong enough to clear a chest cavity and to hollow out caverns, and it’s just enough to tunnel the music straight into your mind. It’s the implementation of tension between you and all your other selves, all the evils you face and all the evils you are, and the peak of blaming everything about you that doesn’t encompass the entirety of you. Towards the middle is a finger to the mirror, an absolutely nasty fight riff that would bring even the most confident of people to a babbling mess over what they’ve become and who they are or aren’t.
“Womborous” is the second song, and one that we already premiered last month, which you can check out here. I assume you’ve already become familiar with it, and know it as the fucking wall of destruction it is, serving as the first shatter of self-imagery and narcissism. The mirror cracks.
“Graehence” follows that shatter, and it’s the tinge of ache on your knuckles, the small beads of blood emerging from your skin that you don’t feel comfort in. It’s the numbness of the vibrations in every bone, muscle, sinew, and fiber in your arm that keeps circling its way back into your fist that’s still curled. It’s the war cry for action, and it’s the armies lining up side to side in your mind, and the readying of weaponry, and the sharpening of bayonets. It’s the longest song on the album, and it’s because this part of the battle is what you’ve lived with the longest. You’ve had that constant nagging on your shoulder and that constant tugging at your sleeve and the everlasting sense of unwelcome. This song is the beginning of unraveling.
“Baptism Nihl“ is the first real shot. It’s the ringing in your mind that floods out of your ears and into the streets and into the rivers and oceans, and it contaminates everything around you because you can’t keep from despising all the things about yourself, and the personification of the things that are destructive within. It’s the real beginning of the war.
“Vortex Pyramid” begins the second half of the album. It paints pictures of the gunshots and powder and showers of dirt and blood on the field of mental massacre. Reciprocated abuse on behalf of all your characteristics being taken out one by one.
“Batherex” is so brutal that it can literally only be the final beating. It’s the death screech of your last individual sense and the conclusive reach for any sense of humanity in what’s left in your skull. There is nothing. It progresses as the death sequence in that drone-like, devastatingly fuzzy bleed out and fade of the things still gnawing at your insides with abhorrence.
“Altars” is the second to last track, beginning with a harsh reawakening as all sense of what you’ve lost sets in and you begin the internal fall, the spiral of malcontent and self-decimation. It serves as a journey into hell as it keeps plunging you into a paroxysm of instrumental turmoil until it relays itself into the grand finale.
“Cultus” is this grand finale, and it shows you just what immortalized internal suffering is like. It is abrasive, slow, constantly sifting and shifting through your emotions, and poisoning every single one of them until it becomes one big mass of darkness and tears you apart. It enters your head until you enter numbness.
What Altarage has done is take death metal to a horrendously cacophonous new height. Rich guitar tones, echoing drums, bass chugs for the sanest of people to lose their minds to, grinding vocals, and symphonic blasts of refined disfigurement and ruination make me want a count of how many strings, sticks, and cough drops this band had to replace and/or use to tap into this vein of death metal. It’s as raging and downright demonic as the banshee-esque being on the cover, calling you to fall into the perception of death, become a wraith of self-doubt, and become a creature of Nihl.
Keep up with the insane officials of this release here:
Sentient Ruin Bandcamp
Sentient Ruin Soundcloud
Iron Bonehead Facebook
Iron Bonehead Website
Sol Y Nieve Bigcartel
Nick Keller’s Website
Nick Keller’s Blogspot