Ancient Altar - Ancient Altar (Midnite Collective)

Otherwordly doom from the city of angels.
Release Date: 
22 Jul 2014 (All day)

After you have been scraped off the street from being flattened by Ancient Altar’s filthy and dirty doom for the first time, on a second listen listeners are in for a treat. For they will be able to better appreciate the sonic textures and dynamics beyond the visceral first experience listening to this excellent self-titled first album.

Opener Tidal begins with droning noise and a halting but steady drumbeat, leading up to crunching and paralytic distorted guitar heavier than a thousand mountains crawling underneath an agonised howl combined with spoken word. From then on the main riff, repeated over and over, guides the main body of the song through tasteful soloing, thick bass lines, and traded vocals. Bassist Scott Carlson and guitarist Barry Kavener (one of two) share vocal duties, a unique setup when it comes to doom and done to great effect. The overall impression the song gives is that the listener is before an altar, engaging in prayer in order to summon some creature from the depths of the underworld.

The first minute and a half of the over eight minute Ek Balam sounds like post-rock - as interpreted by doom lords from outer space approaching earth after a long journey from the seventh sun of a seventh sun. Even though the pace speeds up at various points, this post-rock quality, filtered through doom, is an interesting feature that makes Ek Balam a worthwhile listen.

Third song Feed, the fastest paced and most conventional track on the album, has a strong Black Sabbath feel throughout. Bassist Carlson channels Geezer Butler to a great extent, which of course is no bad thing, and he does it well. Without the harsh vocals, this could have most certainly been an outtake from Paranoid or Master of Reality.

Final cut Pulled Out is another eight minute epic, with throat shredding vocals, repetitive riffing, dynamic and varied drumming, all underpinned by a rhythmic and hypnotic bass. This, along with a wonderful use of harsh and clean vocals towards the end, makes the listener feel that they are bedridden in a smoky den suffocated in despair, a vermilion sunset slowly dying away into night.

Ancient Altar keeps things interesting on this self-titled release, drawing on doom, sludge,  post-rock and post-metal. As a statement of intent, this album succeeds in putting Ancient Altar on the map when it comes to doom, carving a distinctive path that looks to the future while at the same time drawing upon the past. Faster than Sleep but slower than Pentagram, Ancient Altar have set a high standard for themselves and are sure to deliver more quality tunes on future albums.