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Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory And Injury CD (album) cover


Altar of Plagues


Experimental/Post Metal

3.98 | 65 ratings

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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.

CassandraLeo | 5/5 |


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