The 21st century gave birth to one of the most thrilling yet underrepresented subgenres in extreme metal: atmospheric death metal. The unhortodox combination of noisy riffs, ugly aesthetics, and a particulary strong push for a wall-of-noise kind of sound are easily some of the most noteworthy characteristics of the aforementioned subgenre, and while some bands indeed stick with the traditional tech-death/black metal basis mostly for the sole objective of a purely chaotic showcase, others try to implement more progressive elements. It’s an interesting, and admittedly refreshing, experience to be able to really appreciate the ridiculously high amount of creative wit Altarage has to offer on Endinghent.
If you are already used to bands like Portal, Impetuous Ritual, Abyssal or Irkalian Oracle then you know the modus operandi of Altarage: the objective of this particular branch of metal is to create an overwhelming, evil maelstrom which is distant and unknown to any sort of “compositional arrogance.” In this sense, one of the main gripes listeners tend to have with atmospheric black/death metal as a whole is its inaccessibility: it’s often easy to lose focus and start to float in a sea of mindless abstractions. However, this does not seem to be the case with this Iberian band, who are very careful to balance the sense of paranoia and delirium which made the aforementioned masters (Portal and Impetuous Ritual) so famous and highly-respected. In fact, under the blanket of reverberations, repetitions and dissonances, Endinghent seems to be guided by compositions that have become synonymous with maturity and intelligence. Even though most of the songs follow the same pattern, every track seem to be an integral part of an entire scenario, which seems to resemble a perpetual volcanic eruption.
Even after the very first listen, it becomes clear that Altarage doesn’t need any special effects in order to make the listener interested in the music. While every riff is almost millimetric, their songs do not get lost in useless oddities and rest on the shoulders of a guitar work that closely resembles the power and clarity used by a group like Dead Congregation, due to a both unorthodox and fascinating mix. An unstoppable sound – made a more enjoyable thread by the mastering of Brad Boatright (Bell Witch, Trap Them, Vallenfyre). It’s also noteworthy for a record like this to highlight the majestic use of both arpeggios and heavier riffs in songs like “Barrier” and “Rift,” which ultimately give the entire record an almost ominous atmosphere.
It surely isn’t an easy task to embody the “unknown” in music, moreover metal. In this sense, Altarage represent one of the main bastions, one of the fundamental pillars of this musical movement, as they manage to masterfully blend dissonant and intricate atmospheres either as a dirge-like crawl or an incessant cascade of Lovecraftian landscapes.
It’s possible someone could brand Endinghent as a mere lovechild of Portal, but I think this output shouldn’t be underestimated by any fan who yet has to delve deep into this huge, dark ocean which is atmo-death. After a fairly introspective examination, I came to the conclusion this album is one of my personal favorites of this year, and overall a huge breath of fresh air. This argument obviously couldn’t be extended to every metal music fan, but Endinghent is nevertheless an extremely good album that you won’t surely forget to include in your year-end list. While the latest Altarage work might not satisfy your hunger for highly aggressive, straightforward music, I still highly recommended it.