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ALTAR OF PLAGUES

Experimental/Post Metal • Ireland


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Altar Of Plagues biography
Formed in Cork, Ireland in 2006 - Disbanded in 2013 - Reunited briefly in 2015

ALTAR OF PLAGUES is an Irish black metal/post metal three piece consisting of members J. O' Ceallaigh (guitars,vocals,synth), D. Condon (bass,vocals) and B. English (percussion).

They play a very clean, yet dense atmospheric style of black metal, often with songs spanning past the ten minute mark. Like many other black metal groups, their lyrical matter is dominated by natural themes, and much like their American cohorts WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, their debut White Tomb is about the conservation of Earth, and their homeland of Ireland.

Altar of Plagues have released two EP's Through the Cracks in the Earth (2007), Sol (2008), and the critically acclaimed debut LP White tomb (2009). Fans of Ambient or Atmospheric black metal may enjoy this due to their lush texturing, and epic approach to songwriting, which may also appeal to fans of Post metal and sludge due to the repition of chord progressions, cleaner production, and the use of more sludgey style of vocals. Recommended to fans of both genres.

Bio written by Dim

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MammalMammal
Profound Lore 2011
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MammelMammel
Imports 2011
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Teethed Glory and InjuryTeethed Glory and Injury
Profound Lore 2013
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Imports 2010
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SolSol
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Profound Lore
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ALTAR OF PLAGUES discography


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ALTAR OF PLAGUES top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.01 | 38 ratings
White Tomb
2009
3.54 | 61 ratings
Mammal
2011
4.10 | 58 ratings
Teethed Glory And Injury
2013

ALTAR OF PLAGUES Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 1 ratings
Live at Club Colectiv, Bucharest
2016

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ALTAR OF PLAGUES Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ALTAR OF PLAGUES Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
First Plague
2006
2.91 | 4 ratings
Through The Cracks Of The Earth
2007
3.85 | 8 ratings
Sol
2008
4.18 | 14 ratings
Tides
2010

ALTAR OF PLAGUES Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Live at Club Colectiv, Bucharest by ALTAR OF PLAGUES album cover Live, 2016
4.00 | 1 ratings

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Live at Club Colectiv, Bucharest
Altar Of Plagues Experimental/Post Metal

Review by CassandraLeo

— First review of this album —
4 stars

Altar of Plagues released this live show as a pay-what-you-want download in 2016, after they had broken up. For those who, like me, never got to see them live, this is probably the next best thing; the sound quality is fairly good as these things go (it's mastered loud, but what else is new for metal these days), and the performances are excellent. The band also chose some of its strongest material from its last two albums for the set list. There are a few songs I'd have liked to see ("Burnt Year", "A Remedy and a Fever", "Reflection Pulse Remains", and/or at least one cut from White Tomb or Tides would have been nice), but it's hard to quibble with the songs that are here, especially when they're performed this well. (Perhaps the band will humour us with a second live album to fill in some of the gaps one of these days.)

There are a few strange aspects to this release. One is the way the songs are divided. There are seven songs in the set list, but they're divided into three tracks. Additionally, although the band played continuously, there are fades to silence between each of these tracks (and as a result, "Part 2" and "Part 3" also repeat a bit of content between them). I had initially written some speculation as to why the band did this, but it didn't seem very interesting. Instead, I'll note the approximate lengths of each song as the band performed them (note that, since there are no gaps in the band's performance, this is somewhat subject to interpretation):

1. Mills (4:09)
2. God Alone (4:23)
3. Neptune Is Dead (16:46)
4. Twelve Was Ruin (5:10)
5. Scald Scar of Water (6:56)
6. Feather and Bone (13:35)
7. All Life Converges to Some Centre (11:05)

In any case, eccentric track division aside, this is a solid live album. Good sound quality, great performances, great set list, and an unbeatable price. This band is sorely missed.

 Teethed Glory And Injury by ALTAR OF PLAGUES album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.10 | 58 ratings

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Teethed Glory And Injury
Altar Of Plagues Experimental/Post Metal

Review by CassandraLeo

5 stars

At the time of its release, Teethed Glory and Injury confounded listeners. It was a complete left turn; it sounded like essentially nothing else that had ever been released in either the post-metal or the black metal genres, let alone Altar of Plagues' fairly pastoral discography to that point. The songs were much shorter and the band incorporated substantial influence from electronic and industrial music, presaging the direction front man James Kelly would subsequently take with his electronic music project Wife after Altar of Plagues' breakup. Unsurprisingly, it attracted a mixed reception at the time.

As time has passed and the initial shock of the album faded, the controversy has largely subsided; it is fairly commonly praised as Altar of Plagues' best release and one of the best releases in the subgenre that, for lack of a better term, is dubbed post-black metal. It is, truth be told, not actually as much of a departure as it seems at first glance. The songs may be shorter, but for the most part they are essentially movements of a much longer composition, much as Altar of Plagues' previous albums were. The album really only contains a few gaps, and it's likely as not that they were placed there largely to enable the album to be placed on vinyl without requiring extensive editing. (As it stands, the track order was still altered for the vinyl release, more on which below.)

The album does, however, have much wider emotional range, which is in all likelihood both the factor that most confused listeners on its initial release and the album's greatest strength. Much has been made of "Burnt Year" in particular, which contains some of the most inhumanly tortured-sounding vocals on record. Reading the lyrics (which I highly recommend; these are several cuts above your average metal lyrics) just makes the experience more intense.

Teethed Glory and Injury has at the bare minimum the feeling of a concept album; several tracks make reference to a son's death, and some song titles appear in different songs (the title for "A Remedy and a Fever" actually appears in "Burnt Year", for instance). The lyrics are clearly rooted in a sincere and deeply felt grief of some sort, and they seem to be influenced by the long struggle Ireland has had with the corruption of its church, but as they are also clearly intensely personal, I won't waste too much time speculating on their meaning.

The lyrics are, however, clearly a major reason why the album contains such emotional shifts. There are plenty of the pastoral moments that marked Altar of Plagues' previous releases, but when this album gets heavy, it is nightmarish. "Burnt Year" is not merely the heaviest part of Altar of Plagues' discography but one of the heaviest metal songs I've ever heard (and if not for the closing eighty seconds, which are substantially lighter, there might honestly not be any contest). Several other songs, such as "God Alone" and "Reflection Pulse Remains", get nearly as heavy.

It might be worth noting here that the vinyl edition has a different track order than the CD and digital releases. Because "A Remedy and a Fever" is almost nine minutes long, it was swapped with the much shorter "Twelve Was Ruin" in order to keep the running time of each side fairly consistent. This caused quite a bit of confusion when the album was released, as people who had the digital versions were using the track listing for the vinyl and vice versa. Regardless of the track order, "Twelve Was Ruin" should be roughly four and a half minutes long, and "A Remedy and a Fever" should be roughly eight minutes and forty-five seconds long. If your version has those lengths swapped, you've got the wrong tags.

It's difficult to evaluate individual tracks on this album; to be honest, I don't even know where all of them start, and I couldn't tell you what song titles correspond to many of the songs without looking them up. I will say, however, that the moments that most frequently stick with me are the climax of "Burnt Year", the expansive midsection of "A Remedy and a Fever", the buildup of "Twelve Was Ruin", and the devastating finale of "Reflection Pulse Remains", but it's best to take this album as a whole.

I should close by saying that a large part of the reason this album was initially divisive upon its release is because it is a very, very difficult album to absorb. Don't let the short song lengths fool you: this will require more effort to wrap your head around than Altar of Plagues' earlier, still excellent releases, even though those had much longer songs. Teethed Glory and Injury is unlike anything that preceded it, and other bands are still catching up. It is perhaps little surprise that Altar of Plagues chose to break up (aside from a brief farewell tour) after releasing it; it's quite likely they felt they'd said everything they needed to say. This is unquestionably Altar of Plagues' masterpiece and one of the finest metal albums of the decade.

 Teethed Glory And Injury by ALTAR OF PLAGUES album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.10 | 58 ratings

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Teethed Glory And Injury
Altar Of Plagues Experimental/Post Metal

Review by frippism
Collaborator RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team

5 stars Teethed Glory & Injury is a breathtakingly eerie and nothing less than revolutionary take on extreme music.

Altar of Plagues, one of the pioneers of the 'post-black metal' movement, has again refused to stay in one place for more than an instant. In what seems to be the antithesis of recent albums such as Deafheaven's 'Sunbather', whose wholly sterile and unexciting take on a seemingly interesting concept (of writing optimistic, inspiring black metal) has swept the underground music community by storm- Altar of Plagues strive to remain utterly unique and succeed in flipping the bird to many a black metal band these days, bands who present to us long winded compositions that slowly putter up and down (nothing I'm against by the way). AoP decide to mix it up a little- combining touches of post-rock with electronic elements with powerful, guttural black metal, and packing them into songs that are usually at the 5 minute mark, AoP have managed to package bursts of absolute brutal, honest, and mesmerizing ecstasy. It's the same kind of in-your-face property I would associate with favorite bands such as Cardiacs (not by sound at all as much as in concept), the type of grittiness that makes your skin crawl with wonder and curiosity.

From the first seconds of the first track 'Mills', you can sense a tension that can tear you apart at the seams. The slow build-up of this song is so edgy and beautiful, that once the explosion of 'God Alone' starts you end up both awed and utterly baffled. The dissonant guitars and rolling drums unleash into an absolute terror onset of manically guttural growls, howls and croons that are some of the best I have heard in the extreme metal genre. Vocals delivered with such rawness and yet strange clarity and unwavering confidence that you can't help be shaken to your core. It is in the next song when Dave Condon howls 'I've watched my son dieeeeeeeee'- a line you might roll your eyes at when reading it in this modest internet review but a line howled so intensely in the album you want to close yourself off in a dark corner and never really talk to any solid matter ever again.

The album continues to weave in and out of fascinating and beautiful ambient like sections and into these epic instrumentals. The oriental sounding 'Twelve Was Ruin' starts with a strange sizzle sound coming in and out constantly- a genius touch that fills the space of the song with a completely different density. The song then ponders on a beautiful Middle Eastern sounding riff which escalates eventually into an epic blast-beat crescendo. Songs such as 'Scald Scar of Water' have opening riffs so nasty and tense they suck you in almost in the same sense as when you can't stop staring at roadkill (only in an entirely enjoyable way I promise). The closing 'Reflection Pulse Remains' is a beautiful instrumental achievement with an off-kilter opening guitar melody which soars into a twin guitar melody tremolo-picked so tastefully that the guitars meld together into some strange dreamy soundscape, closing the album on such a satisfactory high-note you can't wait to play the whole damn thing over again just to hear those last moments all over again.

It is sad to say that this is AoP's last album, for now at least. The band split in June 2013 and for now it seems has called it quits at the absolute peak. 'Teethed Glory & Injury' is an album for the extreme metal ages- a sick celebration of the extreme. But just as its absolute ingenious cover radiates- the extremities are dealt with such confidence, brutal honesty, and a strange sense of wonder and inexplicable ecstasy that the extreme starts sounding very very logical. One of the pinnacles of the genre- helping the genre itself become one of the most innovative and impressive spectacles we have today.

 Teethed Glory And Injury by ALTAR OF PLAGUES album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.10 | 58 ratings

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Teethed Glory And Injury
Altar Of Plagues Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

5 stars 'Teethed Glory And Injury' - Altar of Plagues (9/10)

Earlier today, I received word that the Irish black metal trio Altar of Plagues have decided to part ways. While it's hopeful and certainly conceivable that we'll be hearing work from these musicians under different guises in the future, it seems a very meaningful time for this project to have collapsed. Many bands may cling onto past glories long after the fire has gone out, Altar of Plagues have called it quits at the peak of their success which, from where I'm standing, seems to be the next best thing to dying at 27. Considering the band was little more than a bedroom project six years ago, it's pretty incredible to see what Altar of Plagues have managed to achieve since then; with one of my all-time black metal favourites (2011's "Mammal") counting among their accomplishments. Always playing with one foot in the ring and one foot outside, it's fitting that Altar of Plagues' tentative swansong be such an anomaly. In a genre and 'scene' that unfortunately tends to value tradition over fresh perspective, it's no wonder that "Teethed Glory And Injury" has spurned its own minor controversy in the underground. The fusion of black metal with post rock or industrial music has been done before, but rarely has the blend sounded so seamlessly. Black metal is but one of a number of forces working within the album's framework, and it's sure to spit out any listener looking for a more clearcut musical experience. This sort of atmospheric experimentalism tends to fire blanks most of the time, and that's all the more reason for Altar of Plagues' third album to have impressed me so much. There are so many risks the band have taken with Teethed Glory And Injury", and it's no small victory to have it all come together so powerfully. A gorgeous soundtrack to the end of Altar of Plagues, and the rest of the world.

From the atypical cover alone, it should be clear to almost everyone that Altar of Plagues are beyond the traditional scope of black metal. Of course, to those with the fortune to have heard their work before this, this should not come as any surprise; "White Tomb" was a remarkable, monolithic slab of atmospheric black metal, and the near-perfect "Mammal" took the band's sound closer to the realms of Isis moreso than anything. With "Teethed Glory And Injury", it feels like Altar of Plagues have found a truly unique niche within black metal. Comparisons can still be made with next-wave black metal contemporaries like Wolves in the Throne Room and Fen, and some of the post-metal veterans, but with Altar of Plagues' introduction of drone and noise, their sound has become that much more exact. Perhaps even more notably is the fact that "Teethed Glory..." represents the first time on a full-length where the band has not pursued the longer song structures that defined "White Tomb" and "Mammal". The meticulous repetition so typical of atmospheric black metal is largely removed from Altar of Plagues' musical formula, instead replaced by a much more chaotic, unpredictable ebb-and-flow style of composition.

Rather than fleshing out a few ideas into monstrously looming pieces, Altar of Plagues have condensed musical thoughts aplenty into a relatively tight space. One minute, the album may lull into a deceptively soothing piece of ambience, but its sonic opposite is usually soon to follow. This is not to say that "Teethed Glory And Injury" sounds patchy and aimless, although I would not be surprised if some listeners perceive it that way. Unlike the rest of Altar of Plagues' oeuvre, these tracks cannot function without their context. They lack the self-contained focus to be considered 'songs', and are rather pieces of an overlying puzzle. While some listeners may have anticipated a less challenging experience from the shorter song lengths, "Teethed Glory And Injury" requires a great deal more of the listener's attention than in works past. Suffice to say, there are far more surprises to be had on the album.

Altar of Plagues have seemingly mastered the ability to balance a primitive, noisy production with the meticulous calculation and grace of an auteur. The soundscape is not wildly dense or detailed, but there are more than enough nooks in the band's studio product to properly reward an attentive listener. The composition does not require a virtuosic grade of musicianship, but the atmosphere benefits from the band's healthy knowledge of dynamic. The guitars are sludgier than listeners will have come to expect from black metal, and they pack a greater punch as a result. While vocals have never been a particularly major element of Altar of Plagues' music, "Teethed Glory And Injury" has revealed an emotional depth and range to the band's vocal arsenal that adds an intense sense of passion to the music. A solid mixture of mid-register growls and traditional rasps make up the mainstay of the vocals, but there are moments here (particularly on the album's first emotional highlight "Burnt Year") where the vocals ascend to a near-inhuman howl. Overtop a melodic-yet- aggressive rupture of guitars, the resulting feeling is enormously cathartic. Clean vocals are less common, but are still used wonderfully to help accentuate some of the album's more soothing moments.

"Teethed Glory And Injury" shows a band taking many risks, and having little regard for the preconceived constraints for the genre they're considered part of. From where I'm standing, that's a cause for respect. To hear a band successfully reinvent a style in their own image is quite a sight to behold, and not something I've too often heard in black metal. It's too early to see if Altar of Plagues' third and final album will have the same lasting emotional resonance that "Mammal" had for me, but it's a healthy possibility. Criticisms of the album feeling patchy and lacking structure stand to reason, but it's that freedom from constraint that makes "Teethed Glory And Injury" such a bloody fascinating listen. I will reserve hopes that the band will eventually decide to get back together, but if that doesn't happen, I can't think of a better note for Altar of Plagues to have ended on.

 Mammal by ALTAR OF PLAGUES album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.54 | 61 ratings

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Mammal
Altar Of Plagues Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Mammal' - Altar of Plagues (81/100)

I think, in the wake of Altar of Plagues' disbanding last year, I'm approaching Mammal differently as a listener than I did when it came out in 2011. The band's significantly sludgier (read: heavier) take on atmospheric black metal stuck me immediately upon first listen, but now that Altar of Plagues have completed their trilogy (with the even-better Teethed Glory and Injury), it's easier to see Mammal for what it is. At once adding dimension to the sound of the debut White Tomb as well as setting the stage for Teethed Glory's experimentalism, Altar of Plagues' proverbial middle child is arguably the most immediately compelling of the three, a quality coming at no cost to the album's ferocity and aggression.

If anything sold me quickly on what Altar of Plagues do on Mammal, it's the brilliant way in which they've manifested this style. As a label, post-black metal has a tendency to be a fits-all descriptor for any bands that distanced themselves from a dark or 'evil' atmosphere, to the point where it's virtually synonymous with bands like Alcest and Deafheaven. Of course- as it is with all manners of fusion- the balance of ingredients can be pushed ever so slightly, to create a completely different experience. In the case of Altar of Plagues, the result is every bit as dark and aggressively cathartic as I'd hope for in black metal, but post-metal has influenced the band's sound every bit as much. The crunchy guitar tones, bass-heavy mix and riffy performance aesthetic sound drawn straight from the bowels of post-metal heavyweights like Isis, Neurosis, and Cult of Luna- all bands that exorcise negativity in aggression in their own ways, but bands you'll rarely hear referenced in black metal music nonetheless.

Altar of Plagues virtually perfected their identity and execution on Mammal. The murky-yet-vast production is the perfect presentation for their sound, which is mixed in such a way that it demands presence and attention even on lower volumes. While the ritual repetition of riffs and textures doesn't offer a great deal of insight as to the band's technical skills, the guitar tones have been crafted beautifully, with a depth that distinguishes them from their more 'kvlt'-ish contemporaries. Beyond any other performance on the album, it's the drummer Johnny King that impresses most. As I wrote in my original review for Mammal, the aggressive organism of his playing gives the music a sense of stifling urgency- I hesitate to use the word 'thunderous' in fears of sounding cliched, but there you have it. Altar of Plagues also never fail to bookend their epics with noise/dark ambient passages. While innocuous enough, these segments are appropriately rough and foreshadow the deeper electronic expeditions Altar of Plagues would set off on with Teethed Glory.

Where Mammal falls short of its potential isn't so much the songwriting as its consistency. From the first listen onwards, I've stood by my opinion that "Neptune is Dead" is one of the best atmospheric black metal epics ever written. It's a case wherein the monotonous repetition has been perfected to a point where the listener is constantly engaged by a new layer, a new texture or eruption of a new idea. Dave Condon's half-howled, half-shouted vocals add a fitting sense of dread and negativity to the atmosphere- the band's harrowed admission that "I search for a greater meaning, and still I find nothing" strikes hard every time. "All Life Converges to Some Centre" has a similarly pre-Cambrian punch to it, and though not quite achieving the songwriting perfection of "Neptune is Dead", carries out the album on a powerful note. Less amazing still is "Feather and Bone", a track that emphasizes the post-metal side of the band to impressive effect; it's a strong continuation, but nonetheless feels overshadowed by its superior predecessor. The only track here that truly feels weak is actually "When the Sun Drowns in the Ocean"- Mammal's third track, now somewhat infamous for the sampled keening (that being an old woman's death-wailing, for those laymen out there!). While I've always thought the keening offered an eerie atmosphere and reinforces the longing for a more earthly past, the rest of the song carries much less weight. Over the course of eight minutes, Altar of Plagues constantly sound like they're building up to something, but the song never goes anywhere; there are no satisfying builds or full-bodied ideas to speak of. Perhaps it was the band's attempt to pursue a more experimental style within the album, but to date it's the one track on this album that's never bore any fruit for me.

Mammal lacks the consistency I would expect from a masterpiece, but make no mistake: there are plenty of masterful ingredients here. I am not surprised that Altar of Plagues took me by storm when I first dove into their music in 2011. Mammal expresses a certain uniqueness in its fusion of genres; the style they perfected here could have potentially fed multiple albums after this. With Teethed Glory and Injury however, Altar of Plagues would distance themselves from this post-black golden ratio, brilliantly (and not uncontroversially) mixing things up with added electronic interruptions. Now that Altar of Plagues has disbanded (presumably for good), it's likely we'll never hear the amazing style on Mammal refined to its own point of mastery. Even if Altar of Plagues were still around, I don't think they would dwell in one place long enough to do it anyway.

 White Tomb by ALTAR OF PLAGUES album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.01 | 38 ratings

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White Tomb
Altar Of Plagues Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'White Tomb' - Altar Of Plagues (8/10)

Looking into the numerous EPs by what might be called Ireland's response to Wolves In The Throne Room, Altar Of Plagues' debut full-length 'White Tomb' had some high expectations from me before going into it. After having heard great acclaim concerning the band's fifty minute opus as well as some positive experiences with the band's dynamic take on post-black metal, the bar was set fairly high, and although I haven't found myself entirely blown away by everything the record has to offer, Altar Of Plagues does deliver here. Divided into four winding pieces of experimental and highly atmospheric black metal, 'White Tomb' takes a while to get into, but it has been a journey worth taking.

Altar Of Plagues first came across my radar as being just another one of those black metal bands that throws a few post-rock elements into their music, then calls it a day. Their extended play 'Sol' really changed that few I had though; hearing ample doses of melody and powerful songwriting style really set the band apart from the typical 'grim' black metal act. 'White Tomb' follows this sound up quite well, but tends to drag the compositions out, giving them much more time to build and muster. With soundscapes thrown into the middle of the tracks that sometimes last for several minutes, there is a great bit of dynamic and rest from the heavier parts.

Although there is good reason for Altar Of Plagues to fall underneath the 'black metal' label, a fair amount of has more to do with post-rock than anything else. Often the band will gradually switch between harsh tremolo picking, vocal rasps and blast beats into a soothing flanger of guitars. The transitions are handled fairly smoothly, although it may have been nice to hear a little more combination of the two, instead of keeping the sounds distinct and separate. Of the two styles, I find myself more drawn towards the darker, heavier aspect of Altar Of Plagues; they really manage to take what I previously thought was a dying style and play it with passion. The post-rock elements are fairly minimalistic and take a while longer to warm up to, and it can feel like some of the build ups go on for too long, without enough of a pay-off to warrant it.

Parts of 'White Tomb' certainly tread into the realm of dark ambient, so should one be looking out for a record that keeps the energy high, be forewarned. The album has impressed me as an incredibly dynamic and atmospheric piece of black metal however, surely putting Ireland on the map for this particular style of extreme metal.

 Through The Cracks Of The Earth by ALTAR OF PLAGUES album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2007
2.91 | 4 ratings

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Through The Cracks Of The Earth
Altar Of Plagues Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 'Through The Cracks Of The Earth' - Altar Of Plagues (6/10)

The first official EP of the Irish black metal group Altar Of Plagues, 'Through The Cracks Of The Earth' shows the band at a less refined stage than their later productions, naturally. Despite this, the band's sound is already very identifiable, and the trademark sludgy tone of the music swings heavily here. Making good use of dynamic and unexpected elements, Altar Of Plagues makes a good first real bout here, but in comparison with their later work, the band had not yet fully developed a grasp on their style.

While there are five tracks here, there are only three technical songs; the two remainders being aesthetic supplements to the main bodies of work. After a fairly unremarkable- dare I say, boring- introduction, the band leaps into the first track, 'I Am The Offering'. Immediately, the listener is beaten down with a barrage of black metal fundamentals (blastbeats, tremolo picking) although the vocals are quite a bit growlier than the usual blackened serving. While the song flows with intention, the musicianship and performance doesn't feel quite as tight as it could be, although the ferocity is kept intact. Where the EP really shines however, is during the lighter portions of the music, where the band is allowed to build up complex instrumental arrangements. 'Cast To The Seas' shows the lighter side of Altar Of Plagues in it's best element, making excellent use of cello in a very dark interlude piece. The two final songs are much more based in an instrumental format than 'I Am The Offering', and as a result, make up the real highlight of the album.

While Altar Of Plagues would do much better for themselves with their second EP 'Sol', 'Through The Cracks Of The Earth' is quite a good dose of black metal from the Emerald Isle.

 Sol by ALTAR OF PLAGUES album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2008
3.85 | 8 ratings

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Sol
Altar Of Plagues Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Sol' - Altar Of Plagues (8/10)

Certainly one of the more ambitious black metal bands I have come across, Ireland's Altar Of Plagues make a pretty solid display of their style with 'Sol,' their second EP. A noisy mixture of traditionally black metal and more mellow, post-rock elements, Altar Of Plagues does well to establish for themselves, a pretty distinct sound in a genre that has been downtrodden by it's uniformity. Despite only having three real tracks here and feeling a tad too short for it's own good, 'Sol' is generally an excellent EP, and sure to be archived as one of the band's strongest achievements when all is said and done.

Always a band to steer away from the typical black metal lyrical topics of Satanism and winter, much of this band's work is very political and environmentally conscious, therefore the title 'Sol' has a very significant meaning here to the concept and message that Altar Of Plagues is trying to get across. Musically, the black metal sound is almost always present in the heavier sections of the EP, but the speed and blastbeats are often meshed with ethereal guitar melodies and added subtleties, making the generally low fidelity nature of the recording quite a bit more intricate than one might expect.

The post-rock sections here are nice for the sake of dynamic, but are generally kept very simple with cleanly strummed guitars and light drumwork. While it's great to see the contrast from heavy to cleaner music here and the mellow bits give a sort of respite amongst the sludgy heaviness, it wold have been nice to have seen a bit more done with it. That being said, the highlight and strength of 'Sol' lies in the heavy, yet beautiful sections. Underneath screaming that sometimes sounds like typical black metal rasping and at other times sounds more akin to something like Neurosis, there are always interesting, soaring riffs washing over the mix, giving some beautiful melodic presence that would have otherwise lacked.

Towards the end of the third and fourth tracks (the poetically titled 'Twisted Structures Against The Sun' and 'With Fire In Our Veins We Drown In Light' respectively), there's even some very quiet soundscaping that makes ample use of electronics and studio effects. Perhaps these are the biggest surprises on 'Sol' to behold, but as a whole, this is a very strong black metal release that dares to defy alot of the conventions of the genre, while still maintaining the chilling atmosphere and not going absolutely bonkers in the process... I only wish it was longer!

 Tides by ALTAR OF PLAGUES album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2010
4.18 | 14 ratings

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Tides
Altar Of Plagues Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Tides' - Altar Of Plagues (7/10)

Even a few years ago, the genre of black metal was considered a bastion of purity. Not in the slight sense that the themes and topics covered by the underground style were 'pure' or 'sacred' in nature, but the genre was generally kept on it's own; the mere idea of tampering it with other sounds and styles was blasphemy. Years have past since then, and it's bands like the Ireland-based Altar of Plagues that are debasing the misconception that black metal cannot be successfully crossed over. Coming to the scene's attention after the release of a strong debut full-length 'White Tomb,' the band has released this two song extended play as a follow up. While a double track offering may seem like nothing more than a weak afterthought to any full-length, these two songs are fifteen and twenty minutes long, respectively. Adding up to approximately thirty five minutes in length, there's no doubt that 'Tides' can be considered an album and independent work of it's own.

The two epics 'Atlantic Light' and 'The Weight Of All' comprise the length of 'Tides.' In describing the music of Altar Of Plagues, the sound is akin to that of the wave of depressive black metal in the United States. Projects like Xasthur share alot in common with this band, although Altar Of Plagues definately seems to distinguish itself with a more post-metal leaning than most black metal out there. While the first secttion of 'Atlantic Light' certainly falls into the DSBM category, it isn't long before the prevailing black metal sound gives way to more of a post-metal and sludge vibe. All the while, the music keeps the same flow to it, which is proof right away that black metal works well when coupled with other genres. The production is dense, rough and noisy, but to an extent, it seems to work for the sludgy style.

While the unrelenting repetition and minimalism of the music does lend it a very hypnotic feel, parts of each song do get the feeling that they overstay their welcome a bit. It's not uncommon for the same riff to play minutes at a time, and while there are developments made to the sound every once in a while to keep things interesting, a little bit more variety in the sound here would have done wonders for the product.

Altar Of Plagues has definately found a niche for themselves in the black metal scene, even though their career has only apparently begun. While 'Tides' seems to be a bit long for the relatively low amount of distinct musical ideas here, each motif is used beautifully, and is quite strong. This is an interesting mix of depressive black and post metal, and a fan of either style should check out this potent crossover.

 White Tomb by ALTAR OF PLAGUES album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.01 | 38 ratings

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White Tomb
Altar Of Plagues Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Errors and Omissions Team

3 stars It's hard to review such thing, when you can't stand black/death metal. But this can't exclude me from reviewing this. But I also have to be responsible for picking up facts, together with feelings.

I'm quite surprised, because I like it. Well, in neutral way, because I can stand it. That'd progress at least. So, to put it short, it's not just meaningless place for heavy music with death growling, this has a meaning. And neat composition also. Or guitar sound you would kill for. Vocals (no longer humanish). It's like when you can't stand certain tone of voice, for example high pitched ones and singer unfortunately sings in this key note. It's not right to tell that I don't like this, I can't stand vocals, but it's because type of singing. Other things, like atmosphere (so dark, great work) and some other things To put it short, if death metal, then White Tomb.

Thanks to Dim for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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