Altarage - Worst Case Scenario
Doomentia Records
Experimental Death Metal
8 songs (36:38)
Release year: 2023
Official Bandcamp, Doomentia Records
Reviewed by Goat

After impressing with something radical and new, where do you go next? Repeat the trick to potential lessening returns or try and move the audience on to a new spectacle? Spanish wizards Altarage try both here, having proven themselves more than capable of magic with releases such as 2019's The Approaching Roar, 2021's Succumb and (although not covered here) 2022's more experimental Sol Corrupto with its long instrumental piece, Worst Case Scenario feels like more of an official follow-up to Succumb with its shorter, blunter songwriting, albeit more focused around metallic elements like riffs than the sheer glitchy weirdness of before. If Succumb was giving into the strange alien invaders that made their presence known on The Approaching Roar, then this is the brink of extinction some time after, opener Enigma Signals hinting at the death of life with a technical morass of droning growls and tension-building drum rolls atop doom-tinged riffing.

As a whole the album is far closer to Neurosis than the Meshuggah touchstones of before, all uneasy currents and intense build, the oddly chilling artwork perhaps less impactful than The Approaching Roar's frightening abyss but still fitting in a more explicitly sci-fi style. And that vibe continues throughout, the almost tech-thrash of Case Full of Putrid Stars standing out as a nice counterpoint before it tips over into stop-start blackened torrents of bile at the end. Quite a lot of this album feels like a technical beat-down in a way that wasn't quite there on previous albums, the band testing themselves in a way that is far more human than the alien experiments of yore, such as the complete lack of guitar solos. It's arguably equally effective in a different style, particularly with moments like Cataract that don't quite translate into cohesive songs as much as riff explorations, not to mention the chaotic, almost mathcore Øwork. You sometimes get the impression that the band are experimenting as they go, which doesn't always work out wonderfully!

As a whole this is undeniably far less cohesive than Succumb and even simpler and more straightforward, feeling a little more like a collection of experimental songs than one long strange transmission with tracks flowing seamlessly in and out of each other. One standout piece is the nine-minute Gift of Awakening thanks to the sheer awkward difference from the surrounding three or so minute tracks, atop which it takes a more expansive, even more atmospheric approach with its droning riffs and tribal drumming, again not quite feeling like a real song thanks to the later stuttering riffs. The sheer violence of the following Verdict with its sudden ambient interlude is closer to past glories in comparison, and the one Meshuggah-esque song on the album is The Rigid Subject's downright bendy initial section.

Closer Exhaust is a purging in comparison, all twisted riffing and violent stops and starts, repeating itself and then fading out and leaving you wanting more. To give the band their due, this sixth full-length doesn't bring up usual comparison Portal so much as the band's past works - you may well prefer said previous Altarage transmissions which are undeniably even stranger and more impactful. Worst Case Scenario does show off their skills well and presents another dose of alien horror for the devoted; solid, yet certainly a step down from before. As for where newcomers should start, this album presents a solid dose of experimental death yet one can only recommend the band at their best and most otherworldly for the full impact. Let's hope the true horror of Altarage's world is still lurking beyond the horizon...

Killing Songs :
Enigma Signals, Øwork, Gift of Awakening, Exhaust
Goat quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Altarage that we have reviewed:
Altarage - Succumb reviewed by Goat and quoted 87 / 100
Altarage - The Approaching Roar reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Altarage - MMXV reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
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