Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory & Injury (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Altar of Plagues

Teethed Glory & Injury (2013)

Profound Lore

Released in 2011, Mammal felt like a culmination of the stark, hellish sound Ireland's Altar of Plagues had been working towards for years. It's an exhausting album, a quasi black metal masterpiece that throttles the listener. When I hear that record, I think winter and snow and despair, and I love it.

Just two years later, Altar of Plagues have topped that effort by going in the opposite direction with Teethed Glory & Injury. Oh, there's still plenty of dissonance and shrieking and blast beats. But the songwriting has taken on this completely different energy. Mammal could be sludgy, hazy even. Glory certainly still comes off as otherworldly, but now the band play with a newfound ferocity, as if they can't get the notes out fast enough. This might explain how the group went from writing 19-minute tracks to four-minute ones. This self-editing means more everything (more focus, more aggression, more ethereal passages), giving tracks like "God Alone" and "Burnt Year" greater impact.

There's also a stronger emphasis on groove. Whereas the band's EPs emphasized noise, here AoP emphasize something beyond mere assault. Underneath all that bluster, "Burnt Year" still has a dance beat. Black metal, which, granted, AoP have only ever been marginally a part of, tends to favor disorientation and echo-laden production. Glory has a crisper punch than previous records.

Since at least last fall, frontman James Kelly has been dabbling in an electronic side project called WIFE, and his interest in textures bleeds over into his main band. The polychromatic guitar tones and samples on closer "Relection Pulse Remains" mark a huge departure. Granted, there's still plenty of drone to be found on "Scald Scar of Water" and instrumental opener "Mills," but these brighter colors give the metal aspects more heft.

Provided we remember what genre we're talking about, it's not totally insane to call Glory the best and most accessible Altar of Plagues record. It packs in more songs while cutting down on expanse. It's heavy as heck, and while there's plenty of reason to call it "not true metal," that's also a cause for celebration. Having arrived at a creative peak on Mammal, Altar of Plagues have ascended yet again through reinvention.