Los Angeles sludgers Ancient Altar will release their sophomore full-length, Dead Earth, on Sept. 1. The 300-pressed vinyl comes courtesy of Black Voodoo Records, and there’s reportedly a tape to follow through Midnite Collective, which also released the band’s 2014 self-titled debut, the response to which was fervent enough to earn the four-piece a slot on the May 2015 Psycho California festival. Dead Earth makes no secret of its grim purposes across its four tracks and 41 minutes, but much to its success, the band manages to conjure a vision of atmospheric sludge that’s neither redundant in its methods nor specifically derived from the post-Neurosis school of undulation. Make no mistake, at some point along the way, someone in Ancient Altar probably heard Through Silver in Blood — whether that’s bassist/vocalist Scott Carlson, guitarist/vocalist Barry Kavener, guitarist Jesse Boldt or drummer Etay Levy, I wouldn’t speculate — but it’s by no means a defining influence, and Dead Earth seems much more geared toward innovation than emulation, or at very least the creation of an individualized identity from a variety of stylistic elements.
What the hell does that mean? In terms of the front to back listening experience, it means Ancient Altar are particularly adept at tipping their aesthetic to one side or another. Obviously the split between vinyl sides is a factor, but listening to Dead Earth digitally, its four cuts right in a row, the album moves almost seamlessly from one piece to the next, two longer cuts, opener “Leader, Liar” (12:38) and closer “Void” (12:48), sandwiching the shorter “Albion” (8:34) and “Dead Earth” (6:55), as all work in various levels of thoughtful abrasion toward a full-album flow, somewhere between aggro and a pervasive resignation that feeds into the titular theme — it’s too late to think about saving anything except ourselves. The bulk of the record is screamed, and “Albion” and “Dead Earth” especially dip into black metal atmospheres, but even in those moments, Ancient Altar refuse to be so easily categorized, and by the time they’re through the immersive beginnings of “Leader, Liar,” and they’ve trudged through “Albion” and the nadir of “Dead Earth,” they open up, not to a resounding hopelessness as the title “Void” might hint, but to a feeling of potential from within that despair. Amid clean vocals and a heightened melodic sensibility, the “Void” may be empty, but it’s also the only hope.
All of this ties in with the stated theme of the record, which is loosely that the planet is beyond saving and if our species is to survive, we’ll have to enter that void and find hope elsewhere. Of course, Ancient Altar do a better and more descriptive job on conveying it, so perhaps it’s better to leave it to them. Ahead of the album’s Sept. 1 arrival, I have the pleasure today of hosting the premiere of “Void,” which in addition to being the longest inclusion on the outing is also the richest in terms of the emotional and thematic drive on display.
You’ll find it on the player below, followed by tour dates for a run that begins tonight and more album info. I hope you enjoy:
Ancient Altar hails from the land of the unrelenting sun, crippling drought, and excess known as Los Angeles, born of arcane philosophy and a stripped-down approach to bristling, daunting, towering doom. Formed in late 2013, the band features bassist Scott Carlson and guitar player Barry Kavener splitting vocal duties, along with second guitarist Jesse Boldt and drummer Etay Levy.
Dead Earth is the band’s sophomore effort, coming just a year after their 2014 eponymous debut, which was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews, and just a few months after a devastatingly stunning set at Psycho California in May. Dead Earth is a loose concept album based on war, corrupt leaders, and religion destroying planet Earth as we speak—which is happening, and only getting worse. The album depicts the only way for humanity to survive: leaving this dead earth and starting over somewhere else. The record dips and dives between themes of the utter despair of the human race’s impending doom—and a sense of hope as we triumphantly make our terrifying yet absolutely necessary escape toward a fresh start and a new future.
1. Leader, Liar
3. Dead Earth
Ancient Altar Tour Dates:
8/6 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Bar
8/7 – Colorado Springs, CO @ Flux Capacitor
8/8 – Santa Fe, NM @ The Cave
8/9 Tempe, AZ @ 51 West