August 16, 2020

Altar of Plagues - White Tomb (2009) ☠

Country: Ireland
Language: English
Genre: Black Metal
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
.FLAC via Mega (Link)
.AAC 256 kbps via Mega (Link)

☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 2009 Profound Lore Records
Review by Scott Alisoglu for
These days when I read "post-rock" in an album description, I often roll my eyes and chuck the CD to the side. It is just so overused and can mean so many different things that it is barely useful as a descriptor. That little diatribe aside though, it does make sense in certain instances and when it is meant to convey the spacious ambiance and breathtaking beauty of certain facets of a band's sound, such as Ireland's ALTAR OF PLAGUES on an opus like "White Tomb", I quickly realize that I should stop my bitching and just listen. And what a mistake it would have been to chuck "White Tomb" to the side, as it is a magnificent work of melodic black metal and ISIS-esque shoe-gazing atmospherics that is in league with standard-bearers WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM.
The 50-minute album is broken into two parts, but four separate tracks: "Earth (i. As a Womb, ii. As a Furnace)" and "Through the Collapse (i. Watchers Restrained, ii. Gentian Truth)". It is one of those albums where the first serene notes drip with anticipation of the greatness to come. Then an explosion of melodic black metal rips through the air and the intensity increases tenfold. With so many bands now exploring this style to mixed results it is refreshing to hear an album like "White Tomb" that fires on all cylinders and actually sucks you in, keeping you there in rapt attention for the entire ride. It also helps that the production is so strong; giving the songs a lot of punch and making the sounds of each instrument resonate with the listener, both separately and in unison. As an added bonus you get guest vocals from Nathan Misterek (former GRAVES AT SEA), which only raises the level of excellence.
But the reason that "White Tomb" succeeds so gloriously is all in the way that the album moves so effortlessly from beginning to end; every part, every note, every quiet passage, every burst of aggression fits perfectly. During the contemplative moments there is no waiting around for what's to happen next; you are in the moment and embrace it with every fiber of your being. The black metal aggression overwhelms and the moments of KHANATE style doom (complete with terroristic Dubin-esque vocals) get into the bloodstream and paralyze. I could describe specific sections, such as any number of trance-inducing parts, the cold beauty of a lonely plucked guitar string, or the ghost-like choral effects and gut-wrenching, anguished vocals heard during "ii. Gentian Truth" (guess I just did), but "White Tomb" is not an album of parts and pieces; its majesty lies in its holism. It is that rare release where it becomes so obvious that a band has captured a certain magic that transcends sound, performance, and songwriting. Something happened in the studio that is beyond human comprehension.
"White Tomb" is a brilliant work of art; and this coming from someone who can usually only take this kind of thing in small doses. ALTAR OF PLAGUES can consider itself one of the elite expansionist black metal acts, right up there with bands like NACHTMYSTIUM and WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM. It is imperative that you seek it out.

tags: altar of plagues, white tomb, 2009, flac,


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