Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory and InjuryAltar of Plagues

Teethed Glory & Injury

01. Mills
02. God Alone
03. A Body Shrouded
04. Burnt Year
05. Twelve Was Ruin
06. A Remedy and a Fever
07. Scald Scar and Water
08. Found Oval and Final
09. Reflection Pulse Remains

[04/23/13]
[Profound Lore Records]

Despite my personal love of post-black metal, the genre has seemingly reduced into effects-laden tremolo picking over blastbeats and distant tortured screams without all that much emotional depth. The formula was indeed a powerfully emotive one to build from, but save for a few big names, the genre seems to have lost a bit of panache that made it such a powerful statement to begin with. Irish stargazers Altar of Plagues have always been on the cutting edge of the genre, albeit guilty from time to time of the tropes that made the fringe movement slightly homogenous and incredibly predictable. After gaining traction with a consecutively acclaimed discography, Altar of Plagues have grown into their own as a frightening yet beautiful musical force that puts their undifferentiated peers to shame.

Speaking with the aforementioned tropes in mind, post-black metal gets a bit of flack from many fans of extreme metal for not retaining black metal’s emotional ferocity and sincerity. In fact, many bemoan the air of pretense and hipster culture attached to the genre, particularly in the wake of Wolves in the Throne Room‘s seminal influence. When done correctly, this style of music can create the sense of longing and nostalgia, as Alcest and Deafheaven have shown in recent efforts. Still, many have protested the movement for being more post-rock than black metal, and it’s not hard to see the desire for music that is both hauntingly atmospheric and incredibly dark. Altar of Plagues’ Teethed Glory & Injury is just that, and puts the balls back into the movement.

It’s not usually advisable to judge a book by its cover, but the imagery associated with the record — dancing and contorting bodies in dark monochrome — is an accurate representation of the aesthetics present throughout the record. Equal parts arthouse exhibition and legitimate black metal grit, the record spirals in hypnotic trance throughout its nine tracks in flowing dynamic. The elements are all there, but this isn’t a typical record by any definition pulled from the black metal/post rock spectrum. For instance, increasing amounts of industrial sounds have crept further into Altar of Plagues’ repertoire, with overdriven bass synths and programmed drums (clapping samples included) pulsating alongside almost percussive guitar parts. ‘A Body Shrouded‘ features what is essentially a surprisingly bombastic and technically-minded drum solo that writhes underneath droning guitars while shades of Ulver-inspired choir-esque chanting — albeit much more melodically friendly — can also be heard across the record, particularly in ‘Twelve Was Ruin’ and the buildup in ‘God Alone.’ 

Most importantly, Teethed Glory & Injury sees the band at their most focused and concise. Where the band previously meandered through epic-length tracks, the songs on this record average out to five minutes in length. Miraculously, the band has only gained in this culling of individual track lengths, which has been reciprocated by clever songwriting that allows for album to naturally flow non-stop between tracks to make the record as a whole both cohesive and expansive within itself. This makes for a more interesting listen as a result; Teethed Glory offers no filler, and is a actively cerebral listening experience — and this is saying something for a genre known for its quality as background music.

It may be a cliche to call something “a breath of fresh air” (though this review is certainly not a stranger to “music journalism” cliches), but Teethed Glory & Injury truly feels like a stepping stone for the furtherance of black metal that sacrifices neither heart nor hatred and comfortably treads the line between challenging and listenable. Teethed Glory & Injury is not only a standout record for the genre, but will likely be seen as a must-listen for 2013.

Altar of Plagues – Teethed Glory & Injury gets…

4.5/5

– JR

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