Sunday, 5 January 2014

Altar of Betelgeuze - Darkness Sustains the Silence (2014) | 85%


With some members of the excellent band Decaying, I knew the first full length of these finns would had been good. Released on the first day of 2014, this album starts the new year with a bang. Mixing the lengthy doom/death approach of Decaying's great debut “Devastate” (highly recommended) with a huge dose of stoner elements, this album not only works as an extension of what these musicians are able to do but as also as its own project.

After a short introduction, the band isn't wasting any time with “A World Without End”, a groovy and fast doom/death number. Even though the riffs may seem simple and typical of the genre, there's a traditional overtone to be found here. A sort of admiration for the funnier side of doom metal, the one which is still praising Satan but with a smile on the face. It's even more clear when you reach the third track, the immense “The Spiral of Decay” with its mix of clean grungey vocals and death growls creating hints to both the catchy attacks of Pentagram and the darkness of Scandinavian doom/death bands like Runemagick. I really appreciate the clean delivery that creates a dichotomy in their sound not unlike Desultor.

The key factor of the excellence of this record is its diversity. From fast five to six minutes tracks to the two ten minutes, these tracks have a immense sense of mighty epicness and are very atmospheric. If you were asking yourself some questions about the particular genre of the band, don't be too anxious since the formula is very well incorporated and doesn't suffer from the weakness of a varied yet confusing album. The seventeen minutes title track closes the album in a huge way, encompassing their sound completely and it doesn't even feel that long despite its length.

The production done by Javier Félez (Ataraxy, Teitanblood, Avulsed...) is both cavernous and airy. It's not as tight as it should be but this works anyway since it's not pure, cult death metal that we're listening to. The riffs are heavy, blistering and repeated in a nice, enjoyable way. The vocals can be a bit buried but overall, they're powerful and aren't distracting from the basis of their sound. The clean vocals could had been a bit higher in the mix but I like their tone and it's an interesting touch to the mix. Exploring a melodic sort of doom/death without becoming a wimpy version like their countrymen Swallow the Sun or even Barrow Earth, AoB even adds stoner elements creating a distinctive sound.

It's nice to hear such a band in 2014, a band that doesn't need technicality or a Fleshgod Apocalypse type of “innovation”. It's pure mixing of genres and it works well, the riffs are catchy, in your face and the atmosphere is without a doubt well established without being the main purpose of their music. Atmospheres shouldn't be forced, they will appear easily if your songwriting is good enough and it's the case here. Not trying too hard, the band has a natural flow and their music is truly rewarding. “Darkness Sustains the Silence” will be featured on the “best doom albums of 2014” lists for sure.