Some things are just harsh and dirty by design, meant to be unforgiving, ruthless, and uneasy on the ears and psyche, and they are still perfect just the way they are. Altarage is one such thing, demonstrating a new set of extremities and how there’s enjoyability and strange sincerity to be found in the most savage and ugliest of output there is, on their impending fourth full-length Succumb, out on April 23.
Starting with the obvious, Altarage and their dreadfully vile ways simply aren’t meant for everyone, but those who find themselves enjoying the more extreme kind of profound pummeling will undoubtedly welcome the band and its output to their lives with open arms. I think that picking apart the elements constituting Altarage‘s mien is a difficult task to handle, if it needs to be done in the first place, but I’ll do my best to sink my teeth right into the core substance that makes them tick, and provides them the gut-punch impact that so many others seem to lack in this often one-dimensional genre. And before you get on my ass about spewing shit about your favourite styles found on caveman-esque tendencies, let me clarify that the stylistic hole I’d place Altarage in runs deeper than that of your run-of-the-mill death metal band would, therefore narrowing down the herd of their peers to quite an extent.
One of the major characteristics that make Altarage shine is their hellish production, and the collision of generally dissonant musical leanings varying from vivacious bursts to hypnotizing execution treading on monotony. I know that monotony as a word tends to have a negative connotation to it most of the time, but that’s not the case here at all. What I mean is, that focusing on a simple rhythm and movement for an elongated time, while done well creates a droning atmosphere that engulfs the listener completely, producing a mental haze that won’t dissipate until the music stops. And while they’re definitely no strangers to this feat, on Succumb it’s perhaps more emphasized than ever. I don’t think I’m far off when I say that it is this exact component that creates the division between those who find Altarage absorbing and those who on the contrary find them off-putting.
Judging by my level of glee when the opening track “Negative Arrival” kicks everything in motion without hesitation, I’d say I belong to the first group mentioned above. Hearing the unmistakable wall of sound bashing in topped with unintelligible vocals felt like returning back home, and that sentiment only got stronger and stronger as the album’s aural tentacles caressed my further down my ear canals. With the following rhythmic pulse of “Magno Evento” and the dragging plowing of the tribalistic pair of “Maneuvre” and “Foregone” only widening my grin, I wondered if it’s it right to feel so damn good about something so damn evil? The short answer would be that yes, yes it is.
To further underline Altarage‘s polarising essence, I can see how the organic and earthly mix can simultaneously be gripping for people looking for the human element and a bit too much to digest for those digging empty and sterile, over-produced squelching. But I’d also go as far as to say that the band wouldn’t be half as intriguing and riveting as they are now, if they’d have the wrong personnel in charge of the tones and overall production. Speaking of, Altarage is one of those bands steering away from the arrangements of persona by strictly keeping the veil of their identities unlifted, and even though it can get gimmicky at times, that still further fortifies the band’s enigmatic orientation. The only concrete fact about the mandem is that they’re currently a trio residing most probably in Bilbao, Spain, and changed their vocalist somewhere in between their first albums. I actually think that has happened again on Succumb, even though it’s a wee bit hard to tell. Could be that the members have remained the same and just shuffled the position between each other; what do I or anyone not in the band know. But all that matters, is that the outcome works, and it does exactly that on Succumb.
While the first half of the album already bore a fair amount of impact, I’d say that Succumb has a bit of a rear-wheel drive going for it, as the stretch starting from the haunting “Lavath” and lasting throughout five tracks until the monolithic twenty-minute closer “Devorador De Mundos”, is plainly the best Altarage has to offer. This also helps keeping the album alive until the very last seconds, which in itself is an achievement considering how the release can be heavy on the heart to take in on one sitting. The closer in particular, rears the mentioned drone-like discordant ambiance into new heights, as the mesmerizing thrum of the riffage just going on and on will plunge the listener down into whatever vortex this band soars up from.
To keep the conclusion brief and somewhat pithy, Succumb is exactly what anyone could’ve hoped for it to be; a unique band thriving on their prime. Altarage knows their strong suits just as well as they acknowledge their weak spots, which there aren’t many, if any apart from the ones I pointed out. But even those are matters of preference really, and I can easily see this album elevating the band from the underground mire and pushing them out there in the open. As I said in the very first sentence of this review, some things are just harsh and dirty by design, meant to be unforgiving, ruthless, and uneasy on the ears and psyche, and they are still perfect just the way they are.