Altar of Plagues – Mammal (Profound Lore Records)

Friday, 22nd March 2013
Rating: 8/10

Coming off a “breakout” album, metal bands of the less-adventurous nature than Ireland’s Altar of Plagues tend to play it safe. Figuring their audience will lunge at anything they toss out, certain bands (whose names shall be spared) repeat the cycle for the remainder of their career and in the process, become irrelevant. Obviously, Mammal is hardly the irrelevant release; neither was 2009’s killer White Tomb, the album that essentially launched Altar of Plagues’ career. In fact, Mammal pushes AOP’s sound to brink.

Without the premeditated post-metal moves that were all over White Tomb, AOP has opted to hitch their wagon to pure atmosphere this time out. Sure, the guitars have some grit and grind to them, as evidenced by opener “Neptune Is Dead,” but it’s surrounded by heaps of hushed, waiting-in-the-bushes moments that make the heavy moments all the more striking. All this does is make the opening rumble of “Feather and Bone” simply crushing, especially when the double-bass work of Johnny King picks up steam.

The experimental “When the Sun Drowns In the Ocean” (which features “keening,” an old Irish tradition of crying over a corpse during a wake) emerges as one of the band’s more haunting moments, cascading perfectly into album highlight “All Life Converges To Some Center.” Here, AOP get tied up in spacey melodic bits, the kind that made Isis what they were, only the Irishmen take it to the next level by hunkering down with some extreme metal bits, making it perhaps the most well-rounded song in the band’s catalog.

A band that is seemingly just getting started, Altar of Plagues are everything extreme metal needs in terms of a post-metal answer to Isis. Actually, Mammalpushes boundaries that Isis or even the likes of Cult of Luna and Ghost Brigade wouldn’t think of doing. These guys are a near-revelation.

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