Review & Full Album Premiere: Altar of Oblivion, The Seven Spirits

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

altar of oblivion the seven spirits

[Click play above to stream Altar of Oblivion’s The Seven Spirits in full. Album is out April 26 on Shadow Kingdom Records.]

There is a special place in the halls of metal for those who partake of epic doom. It shares with power metal a sense of grandiosity and an absolute need to be all-in, irony-free in order to be properly pulled off, and Danish five-piece Altar of Oblivion nail it. The Seven Spirits, on Shadow Kingdom, is their third album, following behind 2012’s Grand Gesture of Defiance (review here) and their 2009 debut, Sinews of Anguish (review here). They had an EP out in 2016 called Barren Grounds, but The Seven Spirits is the Aalborg-based doomers’ first full-length in seven years. Consistent with that and its title, there are seven tracks on the outing, and no lack of spirit in the delivery, as the band taps ’80s classic metal and early doom metal in order to hone their sound, distinguished by the varied delivery of frontman Mik Mentor, whose low-register approach is deceptively malleable to the melodies called forth by the guitars of band-founder Martin Meyer Sparvath (also backing vocals and keys) and Jeppe Campradt (also keys).

Tasked with thickening the proceedings and making them move are bassist Cristian Nørgaard and drummer Danny Woe, and they only add to the sense of precision throughout the LP’s 40-minute run, whether it’s the thudding start and careening groove of opener “Created in the Fires of Holiness” or the suitably mournful plod in the second half of highlight “Gathering at the Wake” before the big finish takes hold. Regardless of tempo or mood in a given track, the band remains firm in their take on the metal of eld, and there’s never a moment where their sincerity is in doubt. As keyboard lines weave between the two guitars and fill out the arrangements and atmospheres, the sense of drama is palpable, but there’s no questioning Altar of Oblivion‘s commitment to what they do. This is epic, doom, metal. If you can’t handle it, turn in your denim at the door.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Altar of Oblivion are quick to show their doomly credentials in “Created in the Fires of Holiness.” The song thuds the record to life quickly and crashes into its dual-guitar opening lead, very much the over-the-top intro before digging into its first verse, with Nørgaard‘s bassline righteously prominent — counter to a mistake so, so, so many in classic doom and metal make — as the guitars ring out and Mentor establishes his command over the turn to the chorus. By the time the opener is halfway through, the course is set in terms of style, and though its songs are varied, it ultimately does not waver from the mood that “Created in the Fires of Holiness” sets forth, coming apart gradually at the end and allowing for a moment of silence before Mentor starts “No One Left,” imagining a world where doomsday prophecy is fulfilled and nobody is there to see it.

altar of oblivion

Speedier and shorter, “No One Left” is a standout in the tracklisting, but well positioned near the start of the album in order to build on what the opener has set forth in tone and general vibe. It makes a hook of repeating its title line, and has a distinctly ’80s metal infusion of keys starting in its midsection, which the subsequent “Gathering at the Wake’ will depart in favor of raw chug initially, only to see it return later as the track embarks on a, well, epic break in its second half, worthy of comparison to earliest Candlemass and building in speed and energy until its gallop again collapses in tempo to a slowdown at the finish, leaving the vocals to end the track alone, and transitioning to the sparse guitar that opens the centerpiece title-track, also the finale of side A. Backing vocals recall Blind Guardian for a brief second in the first verse, but it’s a tease — why not go all out? — and the song unfolds in brooding, keyboard-laced fashion, its chorus resonant in the theatricality of its delivery and its guitars leading the path through a more subdued feel than anything yet presented.

It would be even more hypnotic for that if the title-track weren’t also so brief, being the shortest inclusion at 4:18. Still, it’s a relatively melancholy finish to side A, and it leaves “Language of the Dead” to pick up on side B with a resiliency that mirrors “Created in the Fires of Holiness” at the album’s outset in its general modus, finding new footing in its chorus and revitalizing the approach ahead of the closing duo “Solemn Messiah” and “Grand Gesture of Defiance.” The former of the two, “Solemn Messiah,” is a pinnacle of The Seven Spirits‘ fulsome aspects, with a patience in its execution that holds despite the grandeur of the surrounding arrangement and the layers of guitar, vocals, and keys at play over the still-solid rhythm section. It is arguably the most memorable of the cuts, though there’s plenty of competition there and it’s a question for the longer term in the end, but it serves in its penultimate position as the crescendo of Altar of Oblivion‘s third full-length, and they cap it with a quick stretch of quiet guitar that leads into the fading-in chug of “Grand Gesture of Defiance.”

Curious that they’d end this record with a title-track for the 2012 outing, but the keyboard-centric feel marks a turn in balance with the guitar — at least until the solo — that piques interest just the same. The chorus doesn’t quite land with the same effect as in “Solemn Messiah,” Mentor pushing his voice down to really emphasize that titular solemnity, but the speedier section that gives way to keys and softer guitar at the finish is a fitting enough way to go out given the focus on melody throughout the entire offering prior. Make no mistake, Altar of Oblivion are doom metal for the converted. This is get-a-vinyl-and-a-patch-at-the-merch-table fare, and while its songcraft is ambitious, part of that ambition is homage to what’s come before. Still, The Seven Spirits lacks nothing for its own personality, and after such a long stretch from the band without an LP, it’s a welcome and doomly return.

Altar of Oblivion on Thee Facebooks

Altar of Oblivion website

Shadow Kingdom Records website

Shadow Kingdom Records on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records on Bandcamp

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Altar of Oblivion Set April 26 Release for The Seven Spirits; New Song Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

altar of oblivion

It’s been seven years since Altar of Oblivion released their second album, Grand Gesture of Defiance (review here), and apparently the Danish outfit decided that’s long enough. The Seven Spirits will be issued backed by the ever-reliable taste of Shadow Kingdom Records this coming Spring, and they’re advancing its arrival and marking the opening of preorders by streaming the title-track now. You can take a listen at the bottom of this post, because that’s how it goes, and dig into the very metal cover art and album info below.

Of course, it all comes courtesy of the PR wire:

altar of oblivion the seven spirits

ALTAR OF OBLIVION set release date for long-awaited new SHADOW KINGDOM album, reveal first track

Shadow Kingdom Records sets April 26th as the international release date for Altar of Oblivion’s massively anticipated third album, The Seven Spirits, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats.

Altar of Oblivion are simply one of the best pure METAL bands around right now. The Danish kings proved it with 2012’s classic Grand Gesture of Defiance album, they proved it with the teasingly short Barren Grounds EP in 2016, and they prove it more than ever with The Seven Spirits. Arguably more so than any of their no-less-considerable and widely celebrated records, here Altar of Oblivion skillfully glide from morose ‘n’ mournful DOOM to absolutely EPIC and daresay regal traditional metal, safely evading any cliches or easy classification whilst reverently adding to the rich and enduring lexicon of heavy metal. If anything, this is as close to total ’80s metal as the band have gotten – but as always, done in that special Altar of Oblivion way.

In many ways, each of the seven tracks comprising The Seven Spirits is a tale in its own right, rife with both bloodlust and tragedy, redemption and remorse. They wind along many roads, some darker than others, with a robust ‘n’ rumbling heft that’s simply Altar of Oblivion’s heaviest production to date. And yet, for all this fleet-footed thunder, those seven songs remain as passionate and emotional as anything around. Just hearing Mik Mentor’s pipes is believing, and on The Seven Spirits, the frontman delivers a performance like no other. These songs could bring you to tears – or galvanize you to conquer any foe before you. The choice is yours across these 41 unforgettable minutes!

Seven years is an interminable length of time between albums, but when the standards are as high as they are with Altar of Oblivion, there’s just no arguing against perfection. Behold The Seven Spirits and bow before their majesty! Begin bowing with the new title track “The Seven Spirits” HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp, where the album can be preordered. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Altar of Oblivion’s The Seven Spirits
1. Created in the Fires of Holiness
2. No One Left
3. Gathering at the Wake
4. The Seven Spirits
5. Language of the Dead
6. Solemn Messiah
7. Grand Gesture of Defiance

www.facebook.com/altarofoblivion
www.shadowkingdomrecords.com
www.facebook.com/shadowkingdomrecords

Altar of Oblivion, The Seven Spirits (2019)

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Reviewsplosion II: The Return of 10 Records in One Post

Posted in Reviews on October 16th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

I am constantly working at a deficit. Financially, yes, because like many of my countrymen I’m am tens of thousands of dollars in debt — but also in terms of reviews. I’malwaysbehind on reviews. Hell, it was into July of this year before I finally put the kybosh on writing up anything from 2011, and I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t put my foot down on it, I’d still have year-old albums going up or older. My to-do list grows like a witchcult.

It’s not something to complain about and I’m not complaining. I’m stoked people give enough of a shit to send their CDs in to be reviewed — especially those who actually send CDs — and it’s for that reason that I do this second reviewsplosion (first one here).

Yeah, as ever, I’m behind on reviews, but I’m also working on being more concise — I swear I am; check out the At a Glance reviews if you don’t believe me — and one of the things I liked so much about the last reviewsplosion was it forced me to get to the fucking point. As direct a line as possible to a review. Boiling the idea down to its essential core.

With that in mind, here’s my attempt to both balance my review budget and be as clear as humanly possible. Hope you dig:

 

Altar of Oblivion, Grand Gesture of Defiance

The subject of some spirited debate on the forum, the second record from Danish five-piece Altar of Oblivion revels in traditional doom methods. There’s an air of pomp in some of the songs — “Graveyard of Broken Dreams” lays it on a little thick — but by and large, Grand Gesture of Defiance (Shadow Kingdom) is a more than solid showing of genre. Classic underground metal flourishes abound, and while it’s not a record to change your life, at six tracks/34 minutes, neither does it hang around long enough to be overly repetitive. You could do way worse. Altar of Oblivion on Thee Facebooks.

 

Blooming Látigo, Esfínteres y Faquires

Primarily? Weird. The Spanish outfiit Blooming Látigo make their debut on Féretro Records (CD) and Trips und Träume (LP) with the all-the-fuck-over-the-place Esfínteres y Faquires, alternately grinding out post-hardcore and reciting Birthday Party-style poetry. They reach pretty hard to get to “experimental,” maybe harder than they need to, but the on-a-dime stops and high-pitched screams on tracks like “Onania” and “Prisciliano” are well beyond fascinating, and the blown-out ending of “La Destrucción del Aura” is fittingly apocalyptic. Who gave the art-school kids tube amps? Blooming Látigo on Bandcamp.

 

El-Thule, Zenit

Five years since their second offering, Green Magic, left such a strong impression, Italian stoner rock trio El-Thule return with Zenit (Go Down Records), which makes up for lost time with 50 minutes of heavy riffs, fuzzy desert grooves and sharp, progressive rhythms. The band — El Comandante (bass), Mr. Action (guitar/vocals) and Gweedo Weedo (drums/vocals) — may have taken their time in getting it together, but there’s little about Zenit that lags, be it the faster, thrashier “Nemesis” or thicker, Torche-esque melodic push of the highlight “Quaoar.” It’s raw, production-wise, but I hope it’s not another half-decade before El-Thule follow it up. El-Thule on Thee Facebooks.

 

Botanist, III: Doom in Bloom

It’s a nature-worshiping post-black metal exploration of what the History Channel has given the catchy title “life after people.” If you’ve ever wondered what blastbeats might sound like on a dulcimer, Botanist‘s third album, III: Doom in Bloom has the answers you seek, caking its purported hatred of human kind in such creative instrumentation and lyrics reverent of the natural world rather than explicitly misanthropic. The CD (on Total Rust) comes packaged with a second disc called Allies, featuring the likes of Lotus Thief and Matrushka and giving the whole release a manifesto-type feel, which suits it well. Vehemently creative, it inadvertently taps into some of the best aspects of our species. Botanist’s website.

 

GravelRoad, Psychedelta

Say what you will about whiteboys and the blues, the bass tone that starts “Nobody Get Me Down” is unfuckwithable. And Seattle trio GravelRoad come by it pretty honestly, having served for years as the backing back for bluesman T-Model Ford. The album Psychedelta (on Knick Knack Records) jams out on its start-stop fuzz in a way that reminds not so much of Clutch but of the soul and funk records that inspired Clutch in the first place, and though it never gets quite as frenetic in its energy as Radio Moscow, there’s some of that same vibe persisting through “Keep on Movin'” or their Junior Kimbrough cover “Leave Her Alone.” Throaty vocals sound like a put-on, but if they can nail down that balance, GravelRoad‘s psychedelic blues has some real potential in its open spaces. GravelRoad on Thee Facebooks.

 

The Linus Pauling Quartet, Bag of Hammers

Texas toast. The Linus Pauling Quartet offer crisp sunbursts of psychedelic heavy rock, and after nearly 20 years and eight full-lengths, that shouldn’t exactly be as much of a surprise as it is. Nonetheless, Bag of Hammers (Homeskool Records) proffers a 41-minute collection of heady ’90s-loving-the-’70s tones while venturing into classic space rock on “Victory Gin” and ballsy riffing on “Saving Throw.” Being my first experience with the band, the album is a refreshing listen and unpretentious to its very core. Eight-minute culminating jam “Stonebringer” is as engaging a display of American stoner rock as I’ve heard this year, and I have to wonder why it took eight records before I finally heard this five-man quartet? Hits like its title. LP4’s website.

 

Odyssey, Abysmal Despair


It’s the damnedest thing, but listening to Abysmal Despair, the Transubstans Records debut from Swedish prog sludge/noise rockers Odyssey, I can’t help but think of Long Island’s own John Wilkes Booth. It’s the vocals, and I know that’s a really specific association most people aren’t going to have, but I do, and I can’t quite get past it. The album is varied, progressive, and working in a variety of modern underground heavy contexts nowhere near as foreboding as the album’s title might imply, like Truckfighters meets Entombed, but I just keep hearing JWB‘sKerry Merkle through his megaphone. Note: that’s not a bad thing, just oddly indicative of the greater sphere of worldwide sonic coincidence in which we all exist. If anything, that just makes me like Abysmal Despair more. Odyssey on Soundcloud.

 

Palkoski, 2012 Demo

Conceptual Virginian free-formers Palkoski released the three-track/67-minute 2012 demo earlier this year through Heavy Hound. Most of it sounds improvised, but for verses here and there that emerge from the various stretches, and the band’s alternately grinding and sparse soundscapery results in an unsettling mash of psychotic extremity. It is, at times, painful to listen, but like some lost tribal recording, it’s also utterly free. Limited to 100 CDs with a second track called “The Shittiest  EP Ever” and a third that’s a sampling of Palkoski‘s ultra-abrasive noise experimentation live, this one is easily not for the faint of heart. Still, there’s something alluring in the challenge it poses. Palkoski at Heavy Hound.

 

Radar Men from the Moon, Echo Forever

Following their charming 2011 EP, Intergalactic Dada and Space Trombones, the Eindhoven instrumental trio Radar Men from the Moon (On the Radar’ed here) return on the relative quick with a 51-minute full-length, Echo Forever. More progressive in its jams, the album’s psychedelic sprawl shows the band developing — I hesitate to compare them to 35007 just because they happen to be Dutch, but the running bassline that underscores “Atomic Mother” is a tempter — but there’s still an immediacy behind their changes that keeps them from really belonging to the laid-back sphere of European jam-minded heavy psychedelia. They’re getting warmer though, stylistically and tonally, and I like that. Interesting to hear a song like “Heading for the Void” and think Sungrazer might be burgeoning as an influence. Cool jams for the converted. Radar Men from the Moon on Bandcamp.

 

Sound of Ground, Sky Colored Green

There are elements of of Yawning Man, or Unida or other acts in the Californian desert milieu, but basically, Moscow’s Sound of Ground sound like Kyuss. They know it. Their R.A.I.G. debut full-length, Sky Colored Green, makes no attempt to hide it, whether it’s the “Green Machine” riffing of “Lips of the Ocean” or the speedier Slo-Burnery of “El Caco,” though the metallic screaming on “R.H.S.” is a dead giveaway for the band’s youth, coming off more like early Down than anything Josh Homme ever plugged in to play. While not necessarily original, the trio are firm in their convictions, and Sound of Ground tear through these 11 tracks with engaging abandon. The Russian scene continues to intrigue. Sound of Ground on Thee Facebooks.

Thanks for reading.

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Building an Altar of Oblivion in the Shadow Kingdom

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 13th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

No, it’s not Xena: Warrior Princess fan fic, though given how much of a nerd I am for just about everything Pittsburgh‘s Shadow Kingdom Records puts out, it might as well be. The young label, aside from having signed on to release the new album from way underground Maryland doom mavens Iron Man has put on one of the best and most genuine reissue stints I’ve ever come across — and I say “genuine” because the records are genuinely cool and the kind of stuff that no one would dig up just for the cash. The band is Altar of Oblivion, the album is called Sinews of Anguish, and the label checked in with this news:

A brand new Epic Heavy Metal band with Doom touches has emerged He's concentrating on being epic. Shh.from the great Denmark. I received their Demo in 2007 and was blown away by the potential this band had. Martin (guitarist/songwriter) has a really unique riffing style that I love. The riffs are really catchy, heavy, and choppy (for lack of a better word). When you finally get used to his guitar playing you?ll find out it?s a signature sound that he developed. The combination of the Epic styled songwriting with some really subtle Doom-y sections mixed with the very young, talented, and uniquely distinct Mik on vocals puts this band to the top of the Epic Heavy/Doom metal scene. If you liked the demo at all (by the way ?Wrapped In Ruins? is again featured on this new album) the new album is definitely were you would have wanted the band to be by this time because the songwriting has exceeded the expectation. This album is a full-on conceptual, emotional trip about the pain, suffering, and horrors of war. With that in mind, expect nothing but crushing riffs filled with sorrow, despair, and with powerful vocals with so much emotion, depending on your mood might bring a tear to your eye. Altar of Oblivion are keeping the Epic Doom torch aflame that was started by the great and well respected bands like Candlemass, Solstice, Solitude Aeturnus, Revelation, Trouble, etc.

1. The Final Pledge (5:23)
2. Wrapped in Ruins (6:15)
3. Behind the Veil of Nights (7:19)
4. My Pinnacle of Power (9:12)
5. A Retreat into Delusions (6:17)
6. Casus Belli (5:35)
7. Stainless Steel (7:08)
8. Sinews of Anguish (11:08)

Check them out (keep in mind the master sounds a lot better) : http://www.myspace.com/altarofoblivion

Shadow Kingdom Records

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