Altarage gaze into the abyss on Endinghent

Altarage hail from the Spanish city of Bilbao in northern Basque Country. Their identities buried beneath black veils, Altarage are a band whose music stands and falls on its own merits. Their murky, disorienting species of blackened death metal is dragged straight from the depths of Lovecraftian horror, as chilling howls cry out from the roiling maelstrom of churning guitars and percussion. This is the musical equivalent of not just staring into the abyss, but entirely submerging oneself in the bleak depths; Endinghent is an evocative, psychosis-inducing ritual of relentlessly oppressive death metal.

By way of an immediate qualification to the previous statement, I should point out that this is in some ways a double-edged sword; the band maintain a very focused approach to creating this hideous and abrasive style of death/black metal, but it does suffer at times from a lack of genuinely exciting, creative ideas or standout moments. It’s very much a work in constructing and maintaining a morbid, decaying atmosphere, and at 36 minutes in length it would be hard to argue that Endinghent overstays its welcome, but at times one cannot help but wish the band threw a genuine curveball.

This is certainly not to suggest that Altarage don’t cover some substantial ground on Endinghent: though the band’s core sound remains an unholy conjunction of death metal and black metal, songs like the hulking behemoth of ‘Weighteer’ take on a doom metal severity with echoing, droning guitars and feedback, while ‘Incessant Magma” brings unsettling dissonance and crushing guitar grooves, reminiscent of Portal’s 2013 album “Vexovoid”. “Spearhederon” aims for the jugular with itsĀ off-kilter, jarring brutality before slinking back into a churning, unsteady mass of guitar and bass. The crushing sludge of “Fold Eksis” gives way to the jarring, dissonant cacophony of “Rift”, shifting seamlessly into “Orb Terrax”, a hideous mass of primal death metal aggression, oscillating between pummelling grooves and decaying atmosphere.

This stygian hellscape is an engulfing listen that refuses to relent even momentarily. It’s a harrowing and destabilising death/black metal excursion, and while it sometimes suffers from a lack of surprises or standout moments, it certainly makes up for this in its admirable commitment to creating a truly disturbing record filled with a pervasive aura of horror and existential dread rarely found elsewhere. On the whole, then, “Endinghent” is a success.