If we take into consideration that 'From Dead Temples (Towards the Ast'ral Path)' was released already seventeen years ago, and that the last Altar of Perversion recording dates from 2006, we could almost consider 'Intra Naos' as a return from the dead for these Italian masters of the dark sounds. Although they were only in a latent mode and have actually been working on this record from quite some time.
For those who do not not them, Altar of Perversion could be considered as the direct continuation of that Black Metal scene that was forged in Italy by bands such as Mortuary Drape, Necromass (in which the two members of Altar of Perversion used to play, and which I always found quite underrated) or the early Opera IX ('Sacro Culto' rules eternally!), with that inclination for the occult, necromancy and Pan-European mythology and cults. Although Altar of Perversion had a slightly different approach in sonic terms.
Focusing on their new offering, the three records of which the vinyl version of 'Intra Naos' is comprised (two in the case of the CD version) come packaged in a three-folded gatefold sleeve, embellished by a visual introduction to Altar of Perversion's world by Denis Forkas (Wrathprayer, Altars, Behemoth, Grave Miasma ... ) which anticipates the ghastly, eerie and sinister approach they have to the Black Metal genre, and complemented by illustrations for each of the songs taken from the Sinister Tarot of the O9A, an organisation and philosophical path that also finds representation in the lyrics of the band.
When you enter for the first time the realms of such a vast world as the one they have created on their sophomore release, comprised of six songs whose average length is around twenty minutes, you must do it, first, with a good dose patience and an open mindset, as you know you will not catch even a glimpse of the whole. The journey through these six pieces is exhausting, suffocating and requiring a lot of focus, which can only come through repetition and a step by step digestion of every piece and part. It's definitely not an easy experience.
One striking thing of Altar of Perversion's vision on Black Metal is how it sticks at all levels (form, soul and sound) to the very first glimpses of the second wave of the genre. Despite many bands try to replicate that sound and, by that, try to reach the same levels of spiritual depth and mysticism, most can simply not understand it's not only a matter of a raw sound. This being said, the new offering of these two Italians keeps the rawness of their precedent recordings and does not distance from it. It only takes a less chaotic and slighlty less dirty approach, which would match the nature of these new songs. It's interesting to find out that is was captured by a certain Leo Magnolfi who actually does not seem to have had any previous relation to the genre, if I can rely on the Net.
But there's also quite a big step forward on this record in terms of composition. It's not only a matter of the length of the songs and the fact this allows them to develop the ideas a lot more, using monotony and loops as a tool to hyptonize the listener. Which in some way gives me the impression of always swiming in the same cold and nauseating waters, across the whole record, despite not really repeating exact resources. It's also a matter of a much more diverse use of the tempos, keeping the fast parts, which are even faster and more blasting and tight, but also frequently falling into mid-paced and pretty slow and heavy ones, that give a doomier and thicker aspect to their sound. And definitely the fact that they use layers of instruments in a more cohesive way, sometimes overloading the ambience, or even turning it slightly noisy, to reach a truly haunting atmosphere.
And there is something above all this. I don't know if it's the constant dissonant atmosphere, which they have pushed a lot more forward, becoming one of the main characteristics of this record. Or maybe it's the ghostly bass lines that lead the songs from start to end. It could even be the fact that they recorded it attuned at 432 Hz. But every time I play it, it gives me the fucking chills. It's not an effect or feeling emerging from the melodies or the riffs. It's a vibration in the air that surrounds me. It's a coldness in my insides. It's a real presence.
It's actually surprising to read so many comparisons between their sound and Darkthrone's at this point, as I do not think their songs distill the same type of feelings at all. It's maybe more related to the fact that they keep an approach to the genre and it's sound that it's true to its roots. The evolution from 'From Dead Temples (Towards the Ast'ral Path)' to 'Intra Naos' makes me definitely think a lot more about how bands such as Mayhem, Emperor or Burzum went from the rawness and simplicity of their first recordings to the more mystical and atmospheric approach of their next releases (a great example would be the difference we can find between 'Deathcrush' and 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas'). Although 'Intra Naos' vision of the genre might now have closer ties to how bands such as Abigor, Nightbringer or Funeral Mist. Even Celestia comes to mind from time to time, if we look into the more melancholic and morbid ambiances of the record.
I won't go further with this as I could keep speaking, but the best way to understand what lies between the gates of 'Intra Naos' is to explore it, to experience it, to let it devour you. It might take some patience though, but such is the left hand path, isn't it? I just hope the band will also take into consideration re-releasing their first album now.
Saltas is a new misterious outfit emerging from the depths of the bleakest Swedish underground. However, the entities behind this project are far from being newcomers in the extreme Metal scene. In their line-up we can find Nicklas Rudolfsson, the restless mind behing bands such as Runemagick, The Funeral Orchestra and Heavydeath (among many others), bands I've followed for a long time and whose personality I really appreciate, as well as a member or Irkallian Oracle, which identity obviously remains a secret.
Their presentation as a band is done in the old-school way, through a demo tape "Recorded during simple conditions in December 2017" entitled 'Currents', which release is however managed by Nuclear War Now! Productions, allowing them both a very professional presentation of the product in a pro-cassette tape with a two page booklet including the lyrics and a very fitting drawing taken from Juan Valverde de Amusco's "Historia de la composición del cuerpo humano" on the cover, as well as some of the best promotion they could get to make a good start.
The tape includes four tracks, starting by the eleven-minute mammoth "Salt At The Temple Roots", and followed by "Fractals From The Lower Flesh", "XII Nerves Decay" and "Currents From The Astral Darkness", clocking in a total length of twenty-seven minutes. And if there's something I could say from the very first time I listened to these four songs (and there's been many after that) is that the recording definitely falls into the limits of what I would expect from a band including Mr. Rudolfsson.
This does definitely not mean I'm saying this recording is predictive or just a second rate version of his other bands. Saltas is extremely heavy and sinister Doom Death Metal with some bleak Black Metal leanings, yes. And they don't sound that far from some of The Funeral Orchestra's ideas actually, with those extremely thick guitar layers and haunting vocal lines. But they also have a different approach to the genre in other aspects. In some way, the "catchier" and more dynamic parts make me think of a slowed down version of Winter, like playing 'Into Darkness' at half speed (and this is something I don't say easily, as I usually disagree on most comparisons to this masterpiece). Even the vocals sound like they had been lowered down, with that extremely deep and dense tone. However, they add a certain ceremonious aspect to their sound, that makes the song move like a procession towards the absolute void.
On the other side, the atmospheric parts (which also have a very important place in this demo) are a lot more sinister, monotonous and chilling, with an ambiental approach that fuses Funeral Doom and some sludgy/dragging Black Metal in a majestic mass of reverberating riffs and tenebrous melodies over a very (very) simple, quiet and spaced (but tremendously fitting) drumming that envelopes you like a cloak of shadows until it suffocates you.
The combination of both aspects, together with another important factor as the production, which is pretty raw and swamped, make these songs a very surprising debut, full of great ideas to explore and fully explode. which may be simple and quite straight as an approach, but make you think/imagine a lot how they could develop on a longer space such as a full-length would allow. And, if I had to put them close to someone else, I would say their tomb should be placed next to Grave Upheaval's.
In the meantime, right after listening to 'Currents', you can already enjoy their second demo, which is already out in digital format on their bandcamp profile, and which will also be released soon by Nuclear War Now! Productions.
Gia Thanatos is a webzine dedicated to music for the apocalyptic times. No matter the scene or genre it comes from, and mainly chosen according to its author's taste.