Altarage - The Approaching Roar
Season Of Mist
Death Metal
9 songs (42:32)
Release year: 2019
Season Of Mist
Reviewed by Goat

These mysterious Spaniards are generally compared with Portal, not always in a positive way yet the darkness invoked on both new album The Approaching Roar and past efforts is more structured and a little closer to traditional death metal than the increasingly avant-garde Australians, even as their grasp of atmospheric terror grows keener. Past albums from Altarage fit within the cavernous death metal stereotype of a couple of years ago, bearing Chthonic monsters or shapes sprawling across a nightmarish terrain - here, we instead have a figure floating motionless (dead?) atop a black pool, strange spindly reflections beneath him growing less and less human the deeper you go. It's strangely frightening due to its subtlety and ominous feel, not least if like me you have an instinctual fear of drowning. And the band do their best to drown you across these forty-two minutes, songs constructed of solid slablike riffs slathered in droning feedback like Sunn O))) crossed with Incantation, the beginning of Urn dragged out suffocatingly slowly before erupting nearly three minutes in like an audio jump scare. Yet later in the song it becomes almost technical in a deranged manner, like some alien reinterpretation of Meshuggah with deep bass chunks and more varied drumming - the band's remaining humanity peeking through?

This sense returns here and there throughout the album, like the cover art figure slowly sinking and rising in the void, a pattern that only the close listener can fathom. We're taken through moments of furious blackened blasting like Hieroglyphic Certainty and Cyclopean Clash, the latter turning almost epic early on with some technical grooves spiralling out atop the morass like some beast being born, before resuming the chaos. Vocals are intermittent, tormented, distorted growls that seem to come from miles away, buzzing menacingly like the alien speech from Lovecraft's Whisperer in Darkness, and they only add to the album's dark atmosphere. The sheer hate and resentfulness towards the listener reminds me of Emptiness' Not For Music; The Approaching Roar similarly ominous from the opening tones and never letting up.

As ever with albums like this, the listener's imagination is key, but from the songtitles alone a dark story does seem to be being told, from the opening Sighting and Knowledge introducing you to the horror, then later Inhabitant and Engineer show the being more clearly, the likes of Werbuild and the insane Chaworos Sephilln beyond human comprehension. The latter is a truly uncomfortable listen, stopping altogether partway through then building upon a distant ringing sound that is painfully like tinnitus after a loud concert and came close to inducing a headache in your much-abused correspondent. Extreme music that actually hurts the listener is a new one (even with Sigh's 'sonic warfare' techniques made up to explain the production on 2005's Gallows Gallery) and although the effect is soon gone later in the same track, it does help hammer home the maliciousness of the album. You're reminded of this in the way the volume shoots up in the final seconds of Werbuild before Engineer begins with structureless noise, riffs soon emerging but as a finale it's a little unfocused to be closing such an atmospherically rich album and almost seems a misstep. Despite that, this is a strangely compelling listen, a towering construct of otherworldly ugliness that is the best thing from Altarage to date and well worth your time.

Killing Songs :
Knowledge, Urn, Werbuild
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Altarage that we have reviewed:
Altarage - Succumb reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
Altarage - MMXV reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
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