Portal, Mitochondrion, Antediluvian, Grave Miasma, Adversarial, The Ominous Circle, and Impetuous Ritual. The mere mention of these bands automatically conjures thoughts of a particular sound, a sonic aesthetic, within the death metal community. Jagged riffs, overwhelmingly heavy and murky production values, vocals that leap slowly and maniacally from the deepest pits of hell itself. Though this strain of death metal isn’t without its detractors and controversial elements, these above bands and a host of others have constructed successful careers upon the foundation laid by Finnish gods Demilich, and in my mind death metal is all the better for it. Spain’s Altarage also belongs in this group, cementing their reputation among the most punishing of death dealers with their monumental debut release Nihl. It was as relentless, pounding, and utterly suffocating as anything yet released in the band’s chosen subgenre, and ended up being one of my favorite releases of last year. With Endinghent, the band’s much-anticipated sophomore record, Altarage continue to expand upon the sound that brought them such positive attention, but with a twist: Endinghent is without question an evolutionary leap for the band in both song-craft and sound that serves as a sonic departure from their previous work. Whether these changes are good or bad depends on your view of what makes Altarage special, and in my book the band have begun a gallant voyage into a more refined and sharp sound that not only serves to highlight their songwriting ability, but also flesh out elements of their sound that were somewhat drowned out in their last album. It’s a bold move that pays dividends with repeated listening.