Pagan Altar - Mythical & Magical
Oracle Promotions
Doom/Heavy Metal
12 songs (65:11)
Release year: 2006
Pagan Altar, Oracle Promotions
Reviewed by Thomas
Archive review

One of the bands that got completely overshadowed by the bigger NWOBHM bands was Pagan Altar. I knew they were good, but not this good. I had previously heard some clips from their earlier release Lords of Hypocrisy, and based on Adam’s review, I decided to get that one and this, their latest effort. For those of you unfamiliar with these guys, they were formed back in 1978 but have however released only three albums over the last thirty years. They play traditional NWOBHM mixed with old-school Sabbath-y doom. They mix it up perfectly and in addition to that they include their own touch of folk, blues and classic rock music and to be honest, they put nearly all of the present-day doom bands completely to shame. Prepare for the sound of armageddon, the doomsday bell is being tolled, kneel before the Pagan Altar.

Don’t expect polished or modern production here. This is as dirty and vintage as you’ll get it nowadays. If I hadn’t known that this was released in 2006, I would’ve made an instant connection to the late 70s/early 80s. Since I haven’t listened properly to Lords of Hypocrisy I can’t really describe the evolution of the band, but according to secure sources this is a little less heavy, but still as rocking and engaging as their previous record. This varies from exceptionally catchy and groovy to stirringly beautiful and inspirational. Alan Jones’ enigmatic and magical guitar-playing is top notch, and his tone and incredible ability to create touching and ear-pleasing solo’s makes him one of the absolute best emotive guitar-players out there. His crafty riffs are just as godly, and they establish the very backbone of Pagan Altar. Jones is 100% dedicated to his playing, and is in short next to perfect for this kind of music. This is however not all about guitars and riffs. Every band-member contributes with their skill and dedication, and are successfully making this a perfectly functioning machinery. Vocal boss Terry Jones’ voice is nasal, and, depending on your taste, may need some time getting used to. However, if you’re a dedicated Ozzy Osbourne fan, this will not trouble you at all, and he continues to deliver the goods song after song, never missing a note, and creating enchanting melodies all over the place. Keyboard duties are handled by Louise Walter, which especially adds another atmospheric dimension to the mellow and doomy songs. Female vocals are also to be found, they’re not particularly dominating or anything but they add appreciated spice. The rhythmic section is simple and stable, yet bouncy and hooky. Everything is perfectly melted together into a quality release that travels back in time to the mighty eighties.

Even though every song is nothing short of incredible in terms of quality, the epic songs like The Erl King and The Sorcerer are the ones that really stand out. They’re loaded with emotions, unbelievable melodies with a flavour of folk, enchanting and powerful leads and an accomplishment that is downright admirable. This isn't all about slow and dark songs though. If you're attracted to galloping rhythms and somewhat faster songs, Cry Of The Banshee and The Witches Pathway shouldn't be missed. Every album Pagan Altar has released seem to reach classic status among their fans. In fact, it doesn't surprise me at all, an I'm sure that in eight years time, this'll be moved to the classic section of the site. Very few bands make material of this quality and Pagan Altar's sense of song-writing is nothing but stunning. Regardless of what genre, either a doom lord or heavy metal warrior, a black metal serpent or slave to the grind, get a hold of this. You definitely won’t regret it. Best album of 2006? Aye, I think so.

Killing Songs :
Every single one of them
Thomas quoted 95 / 100
Adam quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Pagan Altar that we have reviewed:
Pagan Altar - The Room of Shadows reviewed by Andy and quoted 89 / 100
Pagan Altar - The Lords of Hypocrisy reviewed by Adam and quoted 92 / 100
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