Alltar Stream Live at Ceremony of Sludge in Full


Portland, Oregon’s Alltar — also stylized as A//tar — release Live at Ceremony of Sludge today, Feb. 12. The recording was captured in the final days of the before-time, March 6, 2020, at Ceremony of Sludge IX at the World Famous Kenton Club in Portland. The long-running and loyally-localist festival has been overseen by Justin Brown and Blaine Andrews since its inception, and Alltar took part in an evening lineup that included the likes of Glasghote (who also released their set), San Francisco’s Brume, plus Usnea and Zyl. Past editions have boasted the likes of Holy GroveWitch Mountain (for whom Justin Brown plays bass), Megaton Leviathan and many, many others.

Alltar stepped sure-footed into that righteous company last March, playing essentially a three-song/33-minute set filled out by interludes of Moog synth from vocalist Juan Carlos Caceres, who is revealed to be an even more significant presence on stage than his performance on Alltar‘s 2019 debut, Hallowed (review here), as he engages the crowd and shifts between post-hardcore screams and cleaner-sung shouts atop the post-metal/atmosludge riffs of Tim Burke and Colin Hill, Casey Braunger‘s bass and Nate Wright‘s drums. The fact that none of these dudes are strangers to each other — 60 percent of the band also plays in Hound the Wolves, and there’s history going back further than that — comes through in the comfort level of the performance, and Alltar Live at Ceremony of Sludgenobody suffers from the showcase, be it in “War Altar” or “Arcana” and “Cantilate” that surround on either side.

I single out “War Altar” because of the three longer pieces on Live at Ceremony of Sludge — the shorter ones are the “Intro,” “Interlude” and “Ceremony of Sludge” — “War Altar” is the only one that appeared on Hallowed. The obvious deduction there is that “Arcana” and “Cantilate” — both drawing from a kind of mysticism element, the latter capping in particularly crushing fashion — are new. Perhaps had 2020 happened in another reality, Alltar would already be on their second album. We’ll never know, but whether those songs are new or were written around the same time as Hallowed and held back for the proverbial “next one,” they showcase the band’s atmospheric side well. That’s further bolstered by the interludes between songs, of course, but within the churning progressions as well and the loud/quiet trades, shifts in vocal approach, etc., Alltar play out a ranging dynamic that only seems to be pushing deeper into itself as it willfully basks in the ethereal.

That sensibility would be difficult enough to pull together in the studio, let alone on a live album, but despite the stage banter’s grounding effect in time and place, Alltar manage to cast a mood across their relatively brief set — they played as second of the five — that resonates in its quieter spaces and outright stomp alike. Listening to “Arcana” and “Cantilate,” my impression winds up similar to how I felt coming out of Hallowed, which is that Alltar are a unit rife with forward potential. The fact that they can carry that across on stage as documented here only makes them a stronger band in my mind, and it’s all the more reason to look forward to their next offering, whenever it might arrive.

There is a glut of live releases happening right now as bands offer up the audio from livestreams or dig into the backlog of recorded shows past, but I don’t think that’s a negative at all, and Alltar join the ranks with a particularly telling and progressive vibe that’s still manageable for an easy front-to-back listen. Hell’s bells, it’s three songs.

So enjoy it:

Juan Carlos Caceres on Live at Ceremony of Sludge:

It’s mindboggling to think that this was our last show and it’s been almost a year since then. There’s no doubt that this pandemic has derailed the lives and passions of so many people. As challenging as it has been, I like to focus on the positive memories of having done this show and the standout for me is… community. Ceremony of Sludge doesn’t just showcase our city’s best underground heavy bands, it more so, highlights the incredible sense of community that our heavy music scene has. I know that I don’t just speak for myself when I say that we are all lucky to have people like Justin Brown, Blaine Andrew, and their crew in this scene. They have worked hard to bring nine years of incredible line ups together. I feel immense gratitude to have played five nights at four different Ceremony shows through out the years and get to meet so many amazing people along the way. For A//tar, this was a special show. Not only were we making our second appearance in two years but we were debuting two unrecorded tracks and there’s no doubt that we all felt the pressure of delivering a high quality performance. We are really pleased with how well the audio was captured and are so excited to share this with people.

Order “Live At Ceremony of Sludge”:

“Ceremony of Sluuuuudge, baby!” comes booming through the speakers from vocalist Juan Carlos Caceres, whose amiable attitude contrasts with both the Ozzy-like wailing and harsher screaming – both of which hitting impressive peaks on “War Altar”. The lyrics draw from a wide range of topics; in the bands’ words, “the triumphs and tribulations of human-kind. From the technical and artistic birth of society’s achievements in art and technology, as well as the rise of power, war, destruction, and the control of humanity.”

Alltar is:
Nate Wright – Drums (Hound the Wolves, Tigers On Opium)
Tim Burke – Guitars, Samples (ex-Boneworm, Hound the Wolves, Electric Ring, ex-Skull Island)
Colin Hill – Guitars, Samples
Juan Carlos Caceres – Vocals, Moog Synthesizers (Tigers On Opium, ex-Sioux, Hound the Wolves, The Hungry Ghost)
Casey Braunger – Bass (He is Me)

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