Altar Of Plagues Mammal (Detail)

Since forming in Cork, Ireland in 2006, the intelligent, expansive ambient black metal quartet Altar Of Plagues have put the EP form to good use: 2007′s Through The Cracks Of The Earth, 2008′s Sol, and especially 2010′s Tides (my No. 2 EP of the year) are some of the strongest extreme metal short-players of the past few years. The band’s given to epic song constructions, of course, and it’s satisfying watching them spread their wings and go for something more sustained. Their full-length debut White Tomb was a 2009 standout; things come together even more remarkably on this new LP, Mammal, their most blisteringly dark, but also experimentally compelling, patient, and above-all majestic collection to date. They’ve played shows with ISIS and Wolves In The Throne Room, two decent aesthetic markers, though when they played their first NYC show, Fred and I paired them with Castevet and Velnias for a reason: This is not empty, rarefied black metal; there’s a lot of earthy, muscular punk grit here. (As Mammal’s “When The Sun Drowns In The Ocean” shows, there’s also traditional Irish folk/lore blending with industrialized ambiance.) Vocalist/guitarist James Kelly has said Mammal’s about death, but despite the album’s dark atmosphere, lyrics like “the brother, the mother, the sister and the son / all of them are gone,” the title’s suggestion/realization that we really are just base animals, and the fact that my own loved ones have been dropping like flies, this is powerfully life-affirming music. Even as it eviscerate. See, for instance, the bracing 12-minute standout “Feather And Bone.”

“Fear And Bone”’s opening lyrics:

It is a familiar place that the road leads toward,

Forever dying and stripped of all but nothing and fed to nothing.

Wide eye cannot see the beyond, they will not look upon its face.

The ride to that which has no soul, the ride to nothingness.



01 “Neptune Is Dead” (18:44)
02 “Feather And Bone” (11:42)
03 “When The Sun Drowns In The Ocean” (8:18)
04 “All Life Converges To Some Center” (13:15)

Mammal is out 5/17 via Profound Lore. That’s not the final artwork, it’s a detail from Timo Ketola’s work-in-progress.

Comments (14)
  1. That’s more like it! Just as kickass as you’d expect with these guys.

  2. I was at that show and had heard of none of them. I became a huge fan of three new bands that night.

  3. Did they get a new drummer? I tried to dig into White Tomb, but found the drumming a little too loose/lackluster. This seems much more confident and muscular; maybe he got better? Also better sounding than anything they’ve put out thus far. Anticipations heightened.

  4. This is excellent. I’m really looking forward to hearing the rest. Hope they tour the US again, they’re a great live band.

  5. Altar of Plagues was one of many amazing bands you turned me onto last year.
    This track is extremely tight.
    Keep pumping out these amazing posts and I will keep checking this blog daily.

    Thank You

  6. “All Life Converges to Some Center”….nice Emily Dickinson reference

  7. I found the drumming in this song to be kind of limp despite the clear technical prowess. I really loved the drumming on some of those tracks on Sol especially. This is not bad by any means, though.

  8. Big fan of those opening drum hits.

  9. Oh man, can’t wait to hear this when I get home. Maybe it’ll help jar me out of this Black Flag kick I’ve been on (not that it’s a bad thing, by any means). The show last year was incredible, Altar of Plagues played with such passion and seemed so genuinely pissed.

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