While Crimson Altar’s first full-length The Dwelling features prominent use of flute and a casual vocal style, these Portlanders are heavier than your typical occult rock group. The Dwelling’s sound is equally defined by a massive yet dry guitar tone that gives the proceedings an exotic flavor that brings to mind Solitude Aeturnus or Crypt Sermon. The album isn’t quite as dramatic as those examples would suggest, but the group sounds more elevated than the down and dirty approach of their early demos.
Thankfully the band knows how to make these different elements sound cohesive. While some extra power in the vocals would be nice, they are well performed and are consistently pleasant throughout. The flute takes a supportive role, but it thankfully avoids clashing with the crushing guitar and never comes off as superfluous. The two instruments even blend together nicely on the hazier textures on “Endless.” On the flip side, the rhythm section is pretty basic; the bass being rather sparse in particular.
With this in mind, it does feel like the songwriting could be tighter. The emphasis on structural buildups suits the atmosphere well but a few more ear-catching riffs or vocal lines really would’ve gone a long way. Fortunately, there are some choice cuts on here; “Somewhere in the Depths of Hell” has an appropriately ominous riff set and “Poison Ring” puts in a promising chug. I also love how the title track sounds like it could’ve come straight from Candlemass’ Ancient Dreams or Tales of Creation. It’s so easy to picture Messiah just belting it out for all the world to hear.
Overall, Crimson Altar’s first album is a fun meeting point between occult rock and epic doom metal. While the band may still be finding their groove in terms of songwriting, the atmosphere and musicianship both work well with what they’re going for. I always enjoy hearing flute mixed in with heavy metal and it’s great to see it blend with such powerful guitar work. There may need to be a couple more tweaks for them to reach a top tier status, but it gets better with multiple listens and I like where this is going.
“Somewhere in the Depths of Hell”