Monday, 21 September 2015

Ancient Altar - 'Dead Earth' (Album Review)

By: Charlie Butler

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 01/09/2015
Label: Black Voodoo Records |
Midnite Collective



Ancient Altar’s combination of crushing doom and stirring melody packs a weighty emotional punch that few bands can match. “Dead Earth” is a devastating album which deserves to gain them a legion of devoted followers.


‘Dead Earth’ CS//LP//DD track listing:

1. Leader, Liar
2. Albion
3. Dead Earth
4. Void


Ancient Altar is

Barry Kavener | guitar and vocals
Scott Carlson | bass and vocals
Jesse Boldt | guitar
Etay Levy | drums


The Review:

A mere two years into their existence, Los Angeles quartet Ancient Altar are already delivering their second LP. I’m not familiar with their debut but “Dead Earth” is the kind of accomplished record some bands strive for years to produce.

There are only four tracks here but the band cover some serious ground over the album’s duration. Monstrous 13 minute opener, “Leader, Liar”, draws the listener in with hypnotic bass drone, swirling cymbals and the distant peal of a gong. The calm is soon broken by a menacing guitar line reminiscent of Kylesa heralding the thunderous arrival of the rhythm section. Tension builds and breaks in the form of a classic Sabbath-worshipping riff. The band then launch their full sludge onslaught, complete with agonised, howling vocals. This track begins proceedings in such commanding fashion that it could threaten to overshadow the rest of the album. Luckily, Ancient Altar have enough up their sleeve to keep raising the stakes to the very end.

The title track ploughs a similar furrow to “Leader, Liar” moving from the albums slowest grooves to an unexpected high octane, face-melting gallop before descending once more into glorious torpor. The band really raise the stakes with “Albion”. Here Ancient Altar take the hard riffing that has served them well elsewhere and fuse it to a deep melodic undertone to powerful effect. The introduction of haunting clean vocals alongside tortured growls bring to a mind a dirtier, sludgier Pallbearer. Subtle deployment of organ casts a woozy psychedelic haze over the darkness, enhancing the air of despair.
This approach is perfected on colossal finale “Void”. An acoustic melody rises from the smoking pit of amp debris at the heart of the song which develops into a darkly melancholic climax. The band repeat the same chord sequence, each time adding more layers of distortion, raw lead guitar and interweaving harsh and clean vocals to wring maximum impact from every note.

Ancient Altar’s combination of crushing doom and stirring melody packs a weighty emotional punch that few bands can match. “Dead Earth” is a devastating album which deserves to gain them a legion of devoted followers.


‘Dead Earth’ is available here

FFO: Eyehategod, Pallbearer, Khemmis, Trapped Under Burning Machinery

Band info: bandcamp | facebook

1 comment:

Bruce Jones said...

Thanks for this one. Definitely going on my shopping list. Good balance between doom and rock. Doesn't just plod along. Lots of variation. Sits nicely next to Envoy by Below the Sun.