Review Summary: Altar is a great collaboration album that gives you what you wanted and throws in a few enjoyable surprises.
When I was first getting into drone metal, I quickly gained an understanding of what it is, sounds like, popular bands, etc. Crushing, slow, and incredibly heavy. Of course, I started with Sunn O))) as my first adventure into the genre, and I ended up becoming very interested in it, very quickly. I listened to Boris’s “Pink” soon after, and loved it, and that’s when I discovered the collaboration album between the two artists.
Altar is an album with a number of genre influences, there’s plenty of drone metal similar to the sound from Sunn O))), such as the first song on the album, or at least the first disc of it, the incredibly heavy song “Her Lips Were Wet With Venom”, which clocks in at an impressive 28 minutes. Plenty of good drone in the background, with additional interesting and sludgy (which is the best way I can describe it as) guitar work from Boris.
Etna and Blood Swamp are the other two more drone metal influence tracks on the album, featuring the members of Sunn O))) playing their signature drone sound with their guitars.
But, in addition to the great drone metal, there’s some beautiful ambient tracks, most of which are Japanese release bonus tracks, but you can find them on YouTube. The Sinking Belle tracks (Blue, Black, and White Sheep) respectfully, ditch the heavy drone metal style for a slow ambience style. Eyvind Kang, the violin player on these tracks adds such emotion and beauty to these songs. The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep) is the standout of these 3 tracks though, because of the inclusion of piano and vocals, performed by Stephen O’Malley and Jesse Sykes.
In addition to the vocals on the Sinking Belle tracks, there are voice encoder lyrics on the track “Akuma no Kuma.” It’s a slow and interesting track, and is probably the most unique track on the album, because of all the different instruments used, such as synthesizers, the slow drumming, and of course the vocoder. There’s even some trombone playing near the 3:35 mark.
Fried Eagle Mind is one of the more atmospheric tracks, and a good way to describe it would be “spacy.” The guitar work is interesting and it has very faint and almost whispered lyrics.
I listened to this album expecting only slow and heavy drone metal, but I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of the more ambient and atmospheric songs, which somehow fit in perfectly for me.
The Sinking Belle (All 3 parts are wonderful)
Akuma no Kuma
Sunn O))): Stephen O’Malley (Electric Guitar, Synthesizer, and Piano) and Greg Anderson. (Electric/Bass Guitar, Synthesizer)
Boris: Atsuo (Drums, Percussion), Wata (Lead Guitar and Vocals) and Takeshi. (Electric/Bass Guitar)