"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Black Altar - "Death Fanaticism " (CD)

Black Altar - "Death Fanaticism " CD cover image

"Death Fanaticism " track listing:

1. The Antihuman Manifesto (6:25)
2. The Dark is Coming (5:11)
3. Decomposition ov Life (4:27)
4. Gate to Immortality (2:13)
5. Path ov Death (6:12)
6. The Void (5:47)
7. Widmo Œmierci (5:25)
8. Kingdom ov Razors (4:18)
9. Death Fanaticism (13:54)

Reviewed by on June 30, 2010

"'Decomposition ov Life' sees an equal dose of Peccatum and Doheimsgard score wildly jagged riffs over breakneck blast beats, which all a minute later deconstruct into a discerningly simple grinding waltz tempo that is as chillingly elegant."

If you like your black metal with an (un)healthy dose of eviller than thou kvlt brilliance, then look no further. Polish/Anglo black metal outfit Black Alter has it all: scathingly old school riffage offset by Shadow's bestial roar, gleefully macabre lyrical matter and a troupe of artfully poised skeletons crammed into every page of the CD booklet. "Death Fanatacism" aside, this is a sterling effort indeed.

This is even better, considering frontman Shadow's decision to releive all musicians of the band shortly after their debut release. Yet despite "Death Fanaticism" being the sole creative project of Shadow, four session musicians have been employed for the recording, notably drummer Horn of Antichrist and extra vocalist for "The Void" and "Kingdom ov Razors." The final product is remarkably cohesive, the only minor blip in quality being the slight mismatch of Shadow and Horizon's varying lyrical efforts, which overall, detracts very little from the overall package.

Musically "Death Fanaticism" is redolent of Marduk's opus "Plague Angel" with a few references thrown to Ondskapt and Ofermod. You'll also hear a bombastic, groove-laden guitar line akin to the likes of early Dissection. Vocally, Shadow's cavernous roar fits between Mortuus of Marduk and the less acclaimed Nargarth of Azaghal.

For all the album's cheery and predictable allusions to rotting flesh and skeletal grot, there are at least a few enigmatic twists away from the much abused old school black metal blueprint that’ll gauge the attention of even the most fervent sticklers to the old school subgenre. "Decomposition ov Life," for example, sees an equal dose of Peccatum and Doheimsgard score wildly jagged riffs over breakneck blast beats, which all a minute later deconstruct into a discerningly simple grinding waltz tempo that is as chillingly elegant as it is deliciously malevolent. It’s worth noting here that few black metal bands have embraced a waltz tempo, the only one exception that springs to mind is Code's "Brass Dogs."

In recent years the tendancy to wallow in the claustrophobic confines of old school black metal has been dismissed as sentimental and justifiably indulgent. Yet the success of "Death Fanaticism" lies in the seamless welding together of traditional black metal values and an unruly abstract quality that is neither progressive nor avant garde. After the triumphs of a strong album that could have been potentially marred by a number of set backs, we can only hope that frontman Shadow will hurry up and create a real band.

Highs: Vocally, "Death Fanaticism" is spot on.

Lows: Musically, it's all been done before.

Bottom line: For what's essentially a one man show, this black metal album shows excellent potential.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)