Altar of Oblivion - Sinews of Anguish
Shadow Kingdom Records
Doomy Traditional Metal
8 songs (58'17")
Release year: 2009
Shadow Kingdom Records
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

World War II is a sensitive and emotional subject for many, but probably even more so for Europeans, where the main theater of war was raging. Being born in Ukraine, I have many relatives who had suffered from it, some perishing as innocent civilians, and some fighting on the fronts against advancing Nazi Germany forces. Danish newcomers Altar of Oblivion present the story from the other side, through the eyes of a young German conscript, first brainwashed by propaganda, then left over to die in the cold vastness of Soviet Russia, betrayed and forgotten. Hail of Bullets presented their free-form version of the story on 2008 … of Frost and War, and Sinews of Anguish touches on many similar points, but does so with a lot less direct, less gory, more cryptic and associative lyrics, presenting one soul’s inner suffering more so than his body’s outer depravity. This one is more about disillusionment in the Nazi Regime than the gruesome battlefield description.

The other difference, of course, is the style of metal Altar of Oblivion plays. Not even a hint of extreme metal, the Danes unfold their narrative via solid traditional riff-oriented heavy metal with epic and doom touches. Riffing is everything for Altar of Oblivion. It is their bread, butter, water and air. Rhythm guitarist Martin Mendelssohn indeed has his own unique riffing manner, which fits well with the developing revealing storyline. Distinct, the riffs rarely break their own self-imposed mold, and although captivating in their catchiness in the first portion of the album (Wrapped in Ruins, Behind the Veil of Nights), they do get a bit repetitive towards the end on Casus Belli and, especially, Stainless Steel. I completely appreciate the band not unnecessarily embellishing the sense of drama given the subject, but staying within the same unchanged pace almost throughout does rob the album of emotion somewhat. Additionally, vocalist Mik Mentor, who also has his distinct singing style and can hit higher operatic notes, sounds a bit preachy, dispassionate and withdrawn. This is, perhaps, on purpose, but it feels that he is quite capable of varying his voice a lot more, which would color Sinews of Anguish in multiple hues.

The quality and strength of the album, however, is never in question. Bouncy with more energy Behind the Veil of Nights, you are guaranteed to hum its chorus for a long time. Just as catchy, anguished choruses of Wrapped in Ruins and the closing title track are bound to rouse and quiet at the same time. The album has a number of superbly executed, well placed leads, which bring diversity to Altar of Oblivion mostly doomy disposition. Acoustic opening lead in My Pinnacle of Power sounds more like nadir than the pinnacle, and does set the mood before guitars bite in. Similarly, the use of the flute (by Cheryl Pyle) on A Retreat into Delusions and in the intro of the title track, allows for outpouring of more grief-stricken and agonizing emotions. The utilization of the flute on A Retreat into Delusions as a counterpoint to the electroacoustic guitar turns the song in a tender sorrowful lament, after which the next couple of tracks struggle to maintain it together.

An obvious attraction to the fans of Candlemass and Trouble, Altar of Oblivion can equally appeal to the fans of the riff-oriented traditional metal, like Jag Panzer or even more progressive oriented early era Tad Morose, due to the nature of those introverted solitary vocals. Altar of Oblivion is a good solid find by Shadow Kingdom Records, but it remains to be seen how they can increase variety in their delivery and whether a not-so-thematic album of coherent songs is in their future.

Killing Songs :
Wrapped in Ruins, Behind the Veil of Nights, A Retreat into Delusions
Alex quoted 76 / 100
Other albums by Altar of Oblivion that we have reviewed:
Altar of Oblivion - Barren Grounds reviewed by Alex and quoted 77 / 100
Altar of Oblivion - Grand Gesture of Defiance reviewed by Alex and quoted 85 / 100
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