Bands like Nachtterror and Altars of Grief certainly challenge any preconceived notions people may have of metal bands. Both contain a subtle beauty that is more classical than any of the other images the genre conjures up, and the emotional aspects of both could bring anyone to their knees in despair. This is an excellent split between two bands that fit well together in their attempt to show how moving this music can be.
Nachtterror begins things with a ferocious growl that quickly takes you on a powerful journey through its strong use of classically inspired work, fitting more comfortably into a ballet than a mosh pit. While I know “The Breath of the World, Ablaze” is all synths, I can still imagine a small orchestra playing along with Nachtterror, as the dancers twirl and spin a story of longing and loss. Its power is not to be contained, however, for just as suddenly, things speed up in a triumphant climax that unleashes an excellent mixture of melodic guitars with ferocious drums, only to unravel in a riff barrage that brings the genre of symphonic black metal back to all its former glory.
“Upon Ashes Shores” continues the story with a track much longer in duration and focused more on melody. These confident, clean vocals create a powerful lament that is bound to impact the most hardened souls. What we are talking about here is the kind of song that thousands of diehard metal fans can sing along to in one of those lovely moments where no one is watching. This is the kind of band I would have expected to be opening for Dimmu Borgir in the days when that style was gaining an incredible amount of attention, for those of you old enough to remember that time. They truly have that kind of sound which has the capability of blowing the listener away and taking them to another world. Between balancing melody with intensity, this band has it all.
Things continue with Altars of Grief—a band that has recently caught my attention for its ability to conjure the ghost of David Gold. Theirs is a sound which sounds in many ways like a continuation of Woods of Ypres, except better. As the saying goes, “the student has defeated the master,” and I am glad to have a second chance to explore such powerful and moving music which, in retrospect regarding Woods of Ypres, I unfortunately somewhat ignored.
It is rare to hear a bass guitar create such powerful melodies, but this just goes to show how confident Altars of Grief are. They are willing to give every instrument the ability to shine. Its mixture of melodic doom and black metal is very moving, specifically the clean vocal performance which is the most comparable to Gold’s performances. Even the lyrics are similar, with lines such as “these years have stolen everything from me, but time cannot claim your memory,” which is such a well-written line and, again, an improvement from their influence in many ways, though I should be clear that they haven’t simply tread another project’s clearly defined path.
I guess it’s no surprise that the bands sound so good together (they do share a guitarist, after all), but many differences do exist overall. For one, Altars of Grief is much more melodic; out of the two, I can imagine them even experimenting with having no metal elements present in their sound at all, but they are also much more riff-based, as doom in general tends to be. Nachtterror’s melodies are much more classically influenced, and the balance with the heavier sections makes them even stronger. Both bands have something to offer that is powerful and moving, and will be just as quick to emotionally move you as to make you want to move your head with the rhythm. These are both fine examples of contemporary extreme metal and are worth checking out if you miss everything from Stormblast to The Green Album.
A1) Nachtterror – The Breath of the World, Ablaze
A2) Nachtterror – Upon Ashen Shores
B1) Altars of Grief – In Dying Light
B2) Altars of Grief – Your Heaven