Thursday, November 29, 2012

REVIEW - ALTAR (SWE) No Flesh Shall Be Spared (Demo)

When exploring the subterranean realms of the genre we call “death metal” one finds a lot of gems, most of them unpolished and likely never to see the light of day. Indeed, these realms are inhabited by a loyal, chosen few who are dedicated to the finding of such gems, searching the caverns for whatever they can find. Albums, LP's, EP's, demos, live recording, splits. Everything goes. One of the most populated caves within this unholy underground land is that of Swedish Death Metal. Anyone with a basic knowledge of Old School Death Metal knows what Sweden is all about. Gut ripping chainsaw guitar tones, primitive neanderthal vocal deliveries, beastly animal like drumming, gurgling distorted bass-lines all blend in together seamlessly and deliver a type of death metal that is so simple, yet so addictive. Technicality is shunned for pure brutality. And with this we come to one of the many gems of Swedish Death Metal – Altar's No Flesh Shall Be Spared demo.

Entering the fray in 1991, this demo differs a bit from its counterparts and their interpretation of the style, while being completely within the confines of Swedish Death Metal. The chunky, Baphomet-esque riffs hack away at your limbs with utmost glee, as the demo lives up to its promise of not sparing any flesh. Baphomet is not the only reference point for this mind you, Bolt Thrower and Autopsy influences collide in equal parts and the result is some headbang-friendly compositional randomness – inherently present, however, in most if not all Swedeath. The drumwork smoothly transitions from grooves to blasts to d-beats to crushing double bass assaults, sometimes giving you a different beat than what you would expect on a riff that further gives the band a feel of its own independent of other Swedeath bands. Everything is here, the bass provides the low end as expected and the icing on the cake if of course the ghastly vocal delivery ultimately ensures that every moment is just quite simply downright fun as fuck, and disgustingly filthy at the same time – it's like watching a group of girls have a mudfight.

In terms of production, this is pretty solid for what is supposedly a demo. The clarity here stands at contrast with other demos of the time, which gives it an even more crushing vibe. The classic Swedeath demo murkiness remains a standpoint of the production though the chainsaw sound is lacking, instead containing more of a British – Benediction, Bolt Thrower – type rounded and thick guitar tone. Though, there is nothing wrong with that! Overall this is how DM is supposed to sound. Like something out of a classic horror flick, not something out of someone's arse - which is how most modern death metal production sounds like to be fairly honest, a mass congregation of farts intermingling with each other and creating one massive uber-fart.... but that is another story. My only gripe with the production is that the snare sound becomes a bit annoying at times but for a demo it's very cool how the mixing is done in a way that makes everything very clear.

There's not a whole of negatives here in all honesty. They seemed about ready to release an album – a badass one at that. However, compositionally they don't come off as being as mature as Entombed or Grave – they seem more interested in delivering one headbanging riff after another and being as unpredictable as possible than following any strict way of doing things. However it becomes clear after a few listens that they at the time pershaps were lacking the maturity to piece all the ingredients together. None of the songs on the demo are instantly memorable, though they do grab your attention and make you want to give it spin after spin until the songs are embedded inside your brain. But as I have stated before, this is massively fun stuff. Recommended for fans of Swedish Death Metal and also fans of Baphomet and Bolt Thrower. 8/ 10 ! I envy anyone who saw this band live back in the day.

- Hassan Umer Amin

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