(Transcending Obscurity Records, 2017)
#FOR FANS OF: Stoner Death Doom, Reverend Bizarre, YOB
Altar of Betelgeuze is an unusual group. Mixing some aesthetics of death metal with slower paced doom and grunge, this Finnish outfit creates an impressive and unique sound that is as dark and full of foreboding as it is a captivating and crisp adventure into a stoned drone zone.
Like a ship floating through deep space, Altar of Betelgeuze fits their consistent and gradual pace between Reverend Bizarre playing 'Burn in Hell' and YOB playing 'Quantum Mystic'. However, this band is quite contemplative in where to expound upon each movement and shrewdly bounces a change across the entire ensemble rather than jettisoning one element far out into the void. The doomy stoner sound has me thinking of slower style Sabbath songs like “Hand of Doom” or “Planet Caravan” with prominent guitar riffing that has that bluesy Iommi feel. Altar of Betelgeuze elaborates on this hypnotic structure with a mix of clean vocals reminiscent of Layne Staley's delivery in Alice in Chains and moments of growled vocals. “Sledge of Stones” stands clearly at the forefront as a single that could get plenty of airplay with an addicting rhythm, a great chorus, and guitar tones bringing diminishing gravel to uplift the lead guitar's contradicting melody. Escaping the grumbling dirge for a fleeting moment and halted at its apogee, the guitar is reeled back quickly as though spacewalking while tightly tethered to the main vessel. Growls are used sparingly in songs like “No Return” and “New Dawn” to balance with the higher cleans and though such a combination is a noticeable difference from the era, I could be convinced that much of this album had come out in the early '90s. The real focus in Altar of Betelgeuze's muddy rumble is their Sabbath-worshiping riffing with a grunge aesthetic like in “Absence of Light” that sounds as improvised as it is reveling in the amplified resonance. The band can riff with the best of them and the title track shows it with expertly crafted movements that harmonize in atonal resonance while a thick kick thunder urges on the guitar crash.
If you just sit back and let the journey take you, Altar of Betelgeuze will whisk you away with their crunchy guitar chugging, rattling bass guitar, and atmosphere thick with a deceptively lumbering drum gait stepping slowly to a haunting cadence.