Review Summary: Tides shows Altar of Plagues moving in the right direction, and though there are faults here that were also apparent in White Tomb, it flows a lot better and shows a lot more focus.
I've been highly anticipating a new Altar of Plagues release ever since the massive White Tomb release in 2009, which pretty much blew me away. I think the varying tones in White Tomb really made it stand out, particularly since I enjoyed every little bit they put in. It had your pounding black metal fury, but then it had moments of pure ambience and then even moments than reminded me of Burning Witch-like doom with some really interesting vocal styles. To add to that, the song writing was very good - though one niggle from me was the ideas were sometimes dragged too far and some parts in the music just outstayed their welcome. Though overall, it made me anticipate what they had next. Unsurprisingly, they went in the direction I thought they would.
Gone are the strange avant-garde doom moments and gone are the ambient sections that seemed to drag forever. What Altar of Plagues have done have just merged absolutely everything together, and instead of giving everything their part and section, they've merged all the influences and ideas into one distinctive sound. To accompany this sound, there's this wonderfully gritty production. It's incredibly low-fi, obviously intentionally, which gives the impression to me that the record is decaying as you play it, which to me matches the theme they're going for. Vast urban decay, the power of the earth and the slow, brooding sonic textures - now has a perfect sound to accompany it. Well, okay, it's not perfect - sometimes the guitars come out a bit too thin - but that's my only real complaint regarding the sound itself. If this had the production of White Tomb, it wouldn't have had nearly the same effect.
I find it easy to ignore the thin guitars, however. The songs themselves are fantastically written. If you've heard White Tomb, you've heard what these guys are about. This is black metal, stretched out to almost ridiculous song lengths. Throw some ambient and industrial influences in here and you have quite a fitting soundtrack to a rusty harbour with the massive waves of black metal crushing into the walls. On fire. I'm happy that Altar of Plagues have found their niche rather than just having different sections in one album that made you wonder if you were listening to the same album or not, because the sound here is a hell of a lot more distinctive.
One thing I love here is the vocals. The witch like vocals you heard in "Through the Collapse: Watchers Restrained" are gone, which is a good thing to me - it was my least favourite part of White Tomb. Instead, we have the black metal rasps (That have improved), and then a multitude of desperate cries and shouts. I think clean-ish vocals here add a lot to the record itself, especially since they're littered all over the album so you never get tired of one vocal style before a new one comes in. To add to that, the vocals are just pretty damn superbly executed.
But Altar of Plagues haven't stopped their ideas from outstaying their welcome. It took me a lot of listens to come to this conclusion, but I don't think it drags as much as White Tomb - but it still is an issue. Especially in the track "The Weight of All". That song is nearly 20 minutes and I think they could have easily shaved another 5 minutes off of it and condensed the ideas to make the best track on the EP, but instead some of the sections just drag and drag and drag. Track one fares better, but to me I think both tracks here are great. The melodies are as powerful as before, the songs flow a lot better than White Tomb, and the fact they've chosen something and stuck to it has really gone down with me.
The more I listen to it, the more I slowly come to the conclusion that I prefer it to White Tomb. Tides shows Altar of Plagues moving in the right direction, and though there are faults here that were also apparent in White Tomb, it flows a lot better and shows a lot more focus. Though the band should really work on the issue of their ideas dragging, it doesn't bother me so much in Tides. Both of the tracks show a consistent quality that doesn't dip throughout, and I really can't wait to see a full length in the same vein - a definite winner for me.
The thing is that White Tombs was a combination of a bunch of boring, rehashed ideas and that you cannot deny were truly nothing original. I'm still going to give this a listen regardless.
yeah you have a point but to me they executed it so well that it didn't even matter to me. idk, i really loved it either way. i see your point of view though, this seems a lot more distinctive to me though so maybe you'll like it more.
it took me looottttts of listens but it really clicked with me after i gave it my full attention.
The thing is that White Tombs was a combination of a bunch of boring, rehashed ideas...
People always bring this up when talking about music, and for the life of me, i can't understand why this matters, at all, if it was as well executed as White Tomb. Not EVERY band can be unbelievably unique, there are only so many notes and chords. Quite honestly, unless they copy every melody, and every progression, it has to have some amount of personality. Seriously, how many bands can you name that have not taken influence from others ideas. It is impossible to be wholly unique, take an album for what it is, don;t wish it was something else.
Also, good review, just watch the first person, like said. I still have to check this out. White Tomb was really well executed.
I'm surprised to see so many people hating this, I absolutely love it along with everything else they've ever done - perhaps this even more. I don't find it boring at all, but all to their own. Thanks for the advice guys, I'll stop the first person shit in future reviews. Might even re-write this one to get rid of almost all the first person comments, I read my review again and pretty much facepalm at all the first person.
When you've listened to as much metal as me, you begin to want a somewhat unique approach more and more. Some bands that I would have liked maybe five years ago won't cut it for me now.
I guess i get where you are coming from. I like a lot and originality, while when displayed well often yields a really, really good album, but if it's well executed i usually enjoy it. Most bands have at least something to offer, even if it's only one song.
Also, this album sucks. The sound is terrible, and i'm pretty sure The Weight of All is musically wrong, as in they used wrong chords. This is a HUGE step down from White Tomb.