Friday, January 4, 2008

Review: Altar of Oblivion - The Shadow Era (2007)

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The Shadow Era

Altar of Oblivion, hailing from northern Denmark, is an interesting young doom metal band. Their debut EP, The Shadow Era, provides a glimpse into the remarkable potential possessed by this quartet - potential that has already earned them a deal with Shadow Kingdom Records.

Founded by guitarist Martin Mendelssohn, Altar of Oblivion is comprised of Allan Larsen behind the kit, Vuml on the four-string, all fronted by former opera singer Mik Mentor. The music presented on The Shadow Era oozes desolate, distorted riffs, mournful solos, and deliberate beats. The band doesn't quite reach the ponderous death march tempo of many in the genre, but there is a discernible Cathedral / St. Vitus influence to their sound. After the intro, "Through the Night" presents the band in full force. Mid-paced for doom metal, the track imparts a sense of melancholy and despair. Mik has an interesting vocal style, as his operatic flair is quite evident. Although powerful, his voice sometimes gets away from him at both the upper and lower ranges. If there were one element I could point to for improvement, it would be a bit more vocal control.

"Wrapped in Ruins" is the track that appeals to me most, with very traditional doom riffs and distinctive leads. Mik also sounds much more passionate and energetic on this track, which works well with the music to lend an appropriate sense of urgency and desperation to the lyrics. While touching on the lyrics, The Shadow Era is a concept album dealing with the World War II Battle of Stalingrad - subject matter well suited to the menacing, sinister atmosphere that is doom metal.

The Shadow Era closes with "Line of Ejection", a song which begins with a somber keyboard passage courtesy of Mr. Mendelssohn. A chugging riff and complex beats follow, breaking into the band's signature sound. As far as mid-paced doom goes, Altar of Oblivion has a solid grasp of what makes for a good listen and delivers a good slice of music. The production is a little murky, but given the style of music and the concept behind the album I think it does more to enhance the atmosphere than detract from it. With a label behind them, I expect more good things to come our way.

Track Listing
1 Prologue a mezza Voce 1:50
2 Through the Night 7:00
3 Wrapped in Ruins 6:12
4 Threshold to Oblivion (My Wrecked Mind) 6:16
5 Line of Ejection 6:48
Total Runtime 28:06

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