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Altars – Ascetic Reflection Award winner

Ascetic Reflection
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 17 June 2022, 5:29 AM

ALTARS is an Australian death metal band who formed in 2005. They spent a few years ripping up the underground with a demo release and two splits. In 2013 they released their debut full length, "Paramnesia," but "Ascetic Reflection" is their return after eight years. This album is really damn crazy. "Ascetic Reflection" is a very extreme release that combines a lot of different approaches to death metal. It is atmospheric yet can be densely dissonant but also has a progressive approach. But even with all that going on, the band still manages to be uncompromising and brutal. That is important because the album is going to appeal to a lot different deathheads. If done the wrong way, all that could mean an album that is spastic and disjointed.

Fortunately, ALTARS have excellent compositional skills and have instead created an album that controls the noise into a laser focused effort that flows incredibly well for music this out there and extreme. The production is spot on. It is very much a raw, powerful album but the mix let's everything on it shine. It also has a big, deep sound but doesn't sound overbearing. The flow from track to track is incredible too. So many death metal bands just bludgeon their way through but each song presented here legitimately feels like it is right where it needs to be. The album opens with "Slouching Towards Gomorrah," that runs right into "Perverse Entity." These two tracks work so well together that I couldn't imagine not playing them back to back. The former serves as both an introduction to the album yet as a full song. The drums help hammer the riffs down as this mountain rumbles ever forwards. Sudden bursts of speed from Alan Cadman keeps the listener on their toys while the guitars and bass frame a riff based song. The later is a dissonant demon train, the death growls being the harbinger of this monster. The drums make the song sound so chaotic yet the rhythm foundation with those drums and bass are nothing if not stalwart and sturdy. The guitar solo is a nice touch but doesn't overstay its welcome–this song is on the move and it arrives near the end with rare intensity.

The title track, "Ascetic Reflection," is fucking out of this world—those guitar riffs straight up rip, just heaving the very earth around. There is very little time to breathe as the mid section takes a different route from chaotic to pummeling. The drums and bass are constantly vigilant in their own form of attacks. Near the end, the song lays off the blanket distortion for a moment for the guitars to weave their way around the death screams and supply what amounts to melody for this album. "Anhedonia," grinds it out pretty hardcore—the guitar and bass are impenetrable here but its more along the lines of thick barbed wire than a wall. I love how the vocals seem like they setting off the music bombs they; a quick growl will sound off just as the musical changes.  The last minute of the song is ridiculous especially the drums which ask for no quarter but none given either.

The final track, "Inauspicious Prayer," caps off the album with a heavy but bleak and atmospheric instrumental. A fine ending to a fine album–after the song ends, you want more but it still feels like a complete, full journey. And that probably the best way to describe this album, and band, in general. "Ascetic Reflection," is a commanding achievement and worth the wait to hear it.  The album’s ability to incorporate different styles of death metal and keep up the atmosphere is truly impressive.  This one will find its way onto many year end lists, no doubt.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Slouching Towards Gomorrah
2. Perverse Entity
3. Luminous Jar
4. Black Light Upon Us
5. Ascetic Reflection
6. Anhedonia
7. Opening The Passage
8. Inauspicious Prayer
Alan Cadman – Drums, percussion
Lewis Fischer – Guitars, Soma Labs Ether, Bowed Cymbal, Soma Labs Dvina
Brendan Sloan – Bass, Vocals
Record Label: Everlasting Spew Records


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Edited 30 March 2023

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