Seven years after their last full-length album, 2012’s Grand Gesture of Defiance, Altar of Oblivion returns with a decidedly more modern take on their heavy/doom metal style. “Created in the Fires of Unholiness” makes this immediately apparent, kicking things off with a crunchy guitar tone and a driving pace. This fiery atmosphere runs throughout The Seven Spirits and even when tempos start evening out on songs like “Gathering at the Wake” and “Solemn Messiah,” you’ll still get plenty of speed breaks.
Fortunately, there’s still plenty of doom to go around. The atmosphere is darker than typical traditional metal fare and even when the guitars embrace faster chugs and intricate leads, the chord progressions remain rooted in the Candlemass mold. The vocals also remain a firm anchor, not quite as operatic as before but still showing off a steady baritone, and the keyboards layered throughout help preserve the dramatic air of their earlier albums.
While this shift does yield more energetic results, the songwriting could stand to be more engaging. Much could be made of the tempo changes, but the album is arguably at its best when songs focus on developing individual ideas. The title track and “Language of the Dead” best represent this while contrasting each other in style, as the former is a trudging almost ballad while the latter puts in the album’s most driving charge. The other tracks are all solidly constructed but are lacking in ear-catching riffs and vocal lines.
Altar of Oblivion’s third album isn’t quite the grand gesture (heh) one would hope for after a seven-year gap, but it makes for a solid slice of dark heavy metal. The crunchy tones give it less of that old school vibe, but it is put together well and there’s enough variety for crossover between doom and classic metal listeners. I get the sense that this could be a transitional effort working toward something even stronger. In the meantime, I’ll probably stick with 2009’s Sinews of Anguish as my go-to for Altar of Oblivion.
“The Seven Spirits”
“Language of the Dead”