I have a lot of time for Shadow Kingdom records; they continually unearth both items well worthy of resurrection and new releases of serious class. Basically they know Heavy Metal. So despite the fact I didn’t exactly get on withDenmark’s slightly war obsessed Altar Of Oblivion around their debut full length I wasn’t too unhappy to be handed this. Just not overjoyed.
So now you, gentle reader, find me sitting down to a three course meal compromised mostly of my own words, my foot and my hat. That or previously I was listening to the wrong band.
‘Where Darkness Is Light’ begins with a pretty traditional style riff; so far, so Candlemass. Then they lay the guitar melody over it. Then the huge vocals. Suddenly we are in completely different territory. This is cemented by ‘The Graveyard Of Broken Dreams’ which has a refrain to die for and also brings out an almost NWOBHM honesty on the riff and drums which repels any suggestions of pomposity before they even take shape. The subtle keyboards rise here and there bit are very much the opener of doors for those guitar and vocal melodies to enter by.
Melody its the key to Altar Of Oblivion. I’m not saying they are lightweight; far from it, they edge toward that epic doom sound a little bit Candlemass, a pinch maybe of Solstice in their imperious presentation only, the more heavy metal leanings of pre-Albert Witchfinder Spiritus Mortis. Wall Of Sleep or Magma Rise grasp of melody and a smidgen of Atlantean Kodex classicism oddly but perfectly hinted at and the darkness of the sublime Chilean masters Procession. But it is their use of wrenching, often bleak melody and the sounds conjured by their vocals and lead guitar harmonies that push them elsewhere. Maybe its the accent but the vocals, lead and harmony, kind of make me think of what Tyr might sound like if they tried their hand at doom. They rise and fall, beautiful and powerful, true metal singing full of power and emotion and the rest of the band are not outstripped, moving in perfect harmony with prodigious touch and talent. Listen to ‘In The Shadow Of The Gallows’ for a borderline brilliant example of voice, guitar and judicious keyboards flowing toward a song of so much heart and such amazing tunes and you will see what I mean. You can hear the crowd singing along to this when you close your eyes, and close them you will as the song seeps into your blood.
‘The Smoke Filled Room’, a short semi acoustic piece leads to the sheer brilliance of the epic ‘Sentenced In Absentia’ and the last song ‘Final Perfection’ which almost is.
Honestly, I don’t think there is another band out there that really sounds like Altar Of Oblivion at this moment in time. Sun Faced Apostles period Wall Of Sleep are the closest, perhaps, but this band ploughs a distinct furrow and this is epic power doom if you want to add an unneeded new sub genre. Whatever, this sophomore album is a frankly stunning, haunting piece of art full of such emotion and astounding grace that even with Saint Vitus and Bedemon having set the bar for doom this year you will not, I repeat Will Not, hear a finer doom metal album this year.