Review Summary: Regurgitating nothingness
Since its overwhelming 2016 debut, Nihl
, enigmatic power trio Altarage has been one of the dissonant powerhouses to be reckoned with. With a Portal-inspired signature sound that blends death and black metal in a discordant formula, the Basque lads have been showing above-average consistency, both musically and conceptually. This stylistic coherence stems from the fact that Altarage was built on solid foundations from the start, with clear creative purposes. If we take a closer look at the band's first three albums, we notice that despite the evident link between them the collective has been taking an increasingly abstract approach. This subtle mutation becomes evident when comparing songs like 'Graehence' or 'Batherex' with 'Sighting', for example. The musical structure has become progressively more chaotic, blurred, and challenging. There are no significant aesthetic disruptions or deviations, but the mutation is nonetheless noticeable. It is these small changes that enrich the narrative while making the band's portfolio more exciting, and I, as a keen listener, have come to enjoy this creative journey, to the point of considering Altarage as one of the most reliable and relevant extreme metal acts in recent years.
Oddly enough, the first thing that triggered my interest in Succumb
was its visual nature, namely the cover that ceases to be monochromatic like previous artworks. While that may seem like a minor detail, this kind of disruption never happens by chance. The introduction of color in Altarage's palette symbolizes the desire to broaden the creative spectrum. This artistic ambition manifests itself in different ways throughout the album, either through the uncomfortable abrupt cuts on 'Negative Arrival' or via the corrosive 21-minute closing track that sees the band exploring oppressive atmospheres like never before. The sludgy section in 'Vour Concession' or the Slayer-ish riff in 'Inwards' also bring some unexpected orthodoxy to the hermetic songwriting, giving it more catchiness and overall accessibility. There is a sense of experimentation throughout Succumb
, or at least a willingness to add new nuances to the band's DNA. The brief chaotic solo in 'Magno Event' is another example of this urge to explore new grounds. However, despite these subtle mutations, Altarage's backbone remains essentially unchanged, as it should be. The colossal wall of sound has lost none of its overwhelming power, and the individual signature of each musician stays untouched, whether it be the massive dissonant riffs, the deranged vocals, or the mighty drumming.
Of this relentless set of songs, 'Magno Event', 'Drainage Mechanism' and 'Watcher Witness' are among my personal highlights, the former being undoubtedly one of the best tracks the band has ever recorded. Altarage's trademark sound that swings between doom and blast beat tempos remains unaltered as does their blend of grimy tremolo picking and powerful power chords. In this sense, Succumb
is the next logical step in the band's journey, avoiding repetition or creative loops. And although I believe the band could have gone even further both in terms of experimentation and sound design, Altarage's new chapter has the virtue of looking ahead without being overly attached to the past.
sees the dissonant Basque collective broaden its spectrum by reconciling experimentalism and orthodoxy. Yet behind this deceptively new polychromatic appearance lurks a nihilistic darkness that devours meaning and faith; a devourer of worlds that consumes purpose and regurgitates nothingness. Altarage's fourth installment is thus another massive soul-crushing release that solidifies the enigmatic trio as one of the leading forces in contemporary dissonant music.