Altars - Ascetic Reflection [Everlasting Spew - 2022]
Returning after eight long years since their debut LP, Paramnesia, Australian death metallers Altars have risen from the depths to grace the world with their crushing new album, Ascetic Reflection. From the haunting cover art down to the eight well-formed, and well-planned tracks, their return is a blistering and dynamic treat for the senses. Self-analysis, discovery, and perception are the themes here, both lyrically and via the mirrored song structure, and with this analysis, one also has the benefit of engaging and evolving metal to add to their inward journey. While re-evaluating oneself, what better time to challenge one's definition of death metal.
Ascetic Reflection has the reformed Altars with 2/3 of the original lineup (Brendan Sloan replacing Cale Schmidt on vocals and bass), and not only have they not skipped a beat, they've continued to progress. The tracks as presented on Ascetic Reflection radiate outward from the middle, forming "mirrors by which to measure humanity's true face," and with this, the listener's as well. With this structure and theme in place, the music would need to be dynamic, engaging, and a bit challenging, or the beauty of such a grand theme would be lost. Fortunately, Altars have spent the past eight years with other bands, keeping in practice, and honing their craft. Using this reunion as a perfect chance to unleash their talent and creativity, Ascetic Reflection blasts forth with speed and precision, brutality and artistry, and pushes the boundaries of death metal ever forward. Not afraid to slow down or change directions, the trio keeps the album moving, always, and with each step, brings the listener closer into this heavy and engaging realm of introspection. These nice changes can also be celebrated with the cover art - with the ritual celebrants wearing white robes instead of traditional black, and a daylight service instead of nighttime. And their discovery of the light in the water is a wonderful representation of the inward journey represented on the album.
Altars' second full length is a wonderfully engaging piece of death metal. Utilizing tech elements along with straight-up speed and brutality, Ascetic Reflection is a perfect example of how death has evolved over these 30+ years, and a wonderful resurrection for this Australian band. Available in all formats with gorgeous gatefold vinyl coming later this year, this LP is an awesome and loud trip toward an inward looking mirror.Paul Casey