Altar Of Plagues – Teethed Glory And Injury (Profound Lore Records)Sunday, 12th May 2013
Altar Of Plagues have always been a step beyond most of the ilk they shared a sonic template with, the grand-scale melding of black metal and post-rock aesthetics into a caustic and often-times bleak panorama. Teethed Glory And Injury is something else entirely, however, and one need look no further than the dancer’s body drawn taught on the cover to know that something has changed, changed for the dire indeed.
Whereas in the past the band delivered albums with 2-4 super long (12+ minute) works, this time around the works are shorter and much more pointed. It cannot be said that they’re lean or tightly-constructed songs, no, not even remotely. Left-field indulgences and a pervasive drive for the primal dominates every seething pore of this record, from the glorious (if beholden to a divisive video) initial slice “God Alone” to late-album scathing standout “Scald Scar of Water”. Many of the tracks here flow together and could be imagined as sections of larger works but at the same time they resonate monstrously as individual pieces.
For anyone who has watched Black Swan or indulged the world of professional dance, the indulgence here of that imagery and the particularly kind of brutality it possesses is the most telling thing about this release: its humanity. In the past Altar Of Plagues have come across foremost with themes of urban and environmental decay, worlds long given to rot. Here, however, the mood has shifted much like one of the many dancer’s bodies, a visceral physicality that bleeds from every corner, stable-mates “Burnt Year” and “Twelve Was Ruin” being beautifully exhaustive examples.
For those who might have tired with the group in the past due to the length of their works, a time for reflection and re-evaluation is at hand. The band has not only eclipsed the already high bar they set for themselves but have eclipsed the work of most everyone else. This is unequivocally my album of the year at present, this album is a life-changer.