After offering an explosive sample of ruinous devastation last year via their titanic 2-track demo MMXV, Spanish metal-of-death brutalists Altarage (apparently comprised of several incognito underground Spanish scene vets) return in 2016 to clearcut an unforgiving swath through the cluttered DM landscape with their cavernous debut LP, Nihl. Co-released across various physical and digital media by Sentient Ruin Laboratories, Iron Bonehead, Sol Y Nieve, and Doomentia, this one is already stirring major buzz in the underground. With 4 extremely discriminating filth outlets placing high stakes, you know you’re in for something special.
While they undeniably divine the restless spirit of doom-tinged Finnish OSDM, Altarage go beyond mere homage or tired pastiche to craft a perpetually shifting clinic in dynamic destruction. From the moment that ‘Drevicet’ unloads till ‘Cultus’ abruptly halts, Nihl feels both precarious and big, a vast, looming monolith seemingly ready to collapse under the weight of its own ambition. That it stays firm on its creative foundation while still crushing everything in its path is a testament to the clarity of vision and top-notch playing throughout. Production wise, even a hint of vacuum-sealed Pro-Tools perfection is thankfully absent, making for an organic, claustrophobic descent into an all-consuming sonic vortex. The eye-catching cover art is by New Zealander Nick Keller, renowned for his film production design work on ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, ‘Under the Mountain’, ‘Avatar’, ‘Indiana Jones 4’, and ‘The Hobbit’ trilogy. Keller effectively captures the essence of foreboding chaos within, painstakingly documenting a grayscale nightmare with demented disregard for the wall of sleep.
Such dedication to aesthetic totality in an era of indifferent digital ephemera demands that DM fans of all subgenres grab a hard copy of Nihl to fully appreciate the sui generis shock and awe savagery that Altarage have unleashed on this fearsome engine of eradication.