I’ve been considering my review for Teethed Glory and Injury, Altar of Plagues‘ third LP, and the longer that I spend with this new record, the deeper I get inside it, and sadly the harder it became for me to embrace all that I discovered and feasted on there for several months. It is hard to formulate a sensible verbal interpretation of something that interacts with your senses, perceptions, aesthetic understandings and preferences about art on such a complex level without being shrouded in pretentiousness, flamboyance and flashy advertising. Quite on the contrary, drowned in modest and grey simplicity, I am left with vast space for interpretation, as Teethed Glory and Injury‘s creators are not too fascinated by the idea of revealing everything, and prefer to allow your imagination to struggle with comprehending the full-scale results of their creative endeavors for a third time.
It all started with the video for “God Alone”, which placed us in an ambiance, quite different from the usual Trve & Kvlt black metal aesthetic, and if wasn’t so concrete and appropriate, it probably could be quite controversial for the conservatism applied to the genre. A simple grey video capturing a small ballet performance, maybe even a practice, for one of the most fierce pieces this Irish atmospheric black metal outfit has ever written. Maybe it’s my subjectivism, maybe it’s really somehow reminiscent, but “God Alone” will remain among my favorite music videos as, at a certain point, I started perceiving it as the contemporary, lo-fi brother to Norman McLaren‘s dance film, Pas de Deux, from 1968. Quite a comparison, eh?
In the world of Teethed Glory and Injury, we’re led through “Mills” — an introduction that gradually and gently unfolds, with a rich and textural presence, slightly suggesting the lavish and diverse sonic world which we’re about to encounter in the record. Unlike their previous full-length Mammal from two years ago, the band has taken a far more aggressive and eclectic direction with their music. From the first seconds of “God Alone,” you’re thrown into the abrasive pit of Altar of Plagues’ new sound. A harsh metamorphosis, which, in the beginning, is sure to leave you annoyed, worried in an unsettling brain twist from which you can only escape by slowly exploring the record. It’s surely a tough one to swallow, even though it’s cut in pieces with shorter lengths, something unseen so far in the previous Altar of Plagues albums. However, Teethed Glory and Injury is surely not fierce for only it offers music solely based on inhuman paces, radical rhythmic cuts and uncontrolled outbursts. And even if Teethed Glory… is really full of those, for me, the record still feels more atmospheric and progresses in a rather organic manner rather than a rushed one. The music just brings more to the front and defines itself in a more primal and direct way. Pieces like “A Body Shrouded”, “Burnt Year”, and “A Remedy and a Fever” take us pretty close to where we were left after Mammal, just not in the same monolithic and blurry manner, but rather one that approaches us with a far more concrete intention. The album is a double-faced evil creature, for the rest of it is indeed soaked in (considerable) aggression. Deceivingly hidden amongst their calmer brothers are the sonic abominations of “Scald Scar of Water” and the closer, “Reflection Pulse Remains”, the latter of which is setting quite of an end to the record. It just feels like a statement, a decision that, for now, ends everything somewhere between ravage, desperation and acquiescence. A complex status and a promising end for a future sequel to the path that Altar of Plagues have taken us on.
What makes this band an absolute climax in music are the details that always decorate their music, and in Teethed Glory…, they’re utilized to their maximum. Music-wise, the album is more tightly riff-based, and the production serves well to its straight-forwardness by saturating your ears with the purely aggressive side of Altar of Plagues’ sound. What’s left in the background for the more careful and patient listeners are subtle layers of drones, weird electronics and synths. A lot of noise accompanies the record, contributing to the general sense of freedom and lack of control it almost subconsciously imposes on you. A significant feature of Altar of Plagues has always been the vocals, and here they have also reached their top. The singing is diverse and perfectly considered, suiting perfectly every moment, and every aspect of the song that it contributes to. Ranging from the usual black metal high-pitched screams to clearer howls and shouts — all equally soaked in various emotions — the music here is an adequate interpretation of human states as well as creative decisions. It is exactly this diversity and complexity that Altar of Plagues, both as song-writers and ideologists, us to pose quite an important question. Should we or should we not easily put Altar of Plagues in the black metal genre? Is it right to classify such a boundless collective to one of the most conservative genres, while it’s obvious that on the road to Teethed Glory… those Irish lads have been through a quite lot more? Or perhaps we should just stick to listening to music, hoping for an Altar of Plagues show nearby and leave the labels for the nerds. I’ll pick the latter option.
02) God Alone
03) A Body Shrouded
04) Burnt Year
05) A Remedy and a Fever
06) Twelve was Ruin
07) Scald Scar of Water
08) Found, Oval and Final
09) Reflection Pulse Remains
Written by: Angel S.
Back on Black (UK) / BOBV374LP / 2xLP
Candlelight Records (UK) / CANDLE418CD / CD
Profound Lore Records (US) / PFL115 / CD
Atmospheric Black Metal / Experimental