There is something special and captivating about Stoner and Doom Metal.
The way the steady grooves flow, the way the tone of the instruments and power of the drums create a thick atmosphere which is almost like a haze, taking away your senses and cutting you off from all external stimuli. Of course, the vocals act as a guide, leading you through this musical smothering, but in all, it’s quite different to most other genres in rock/metal and, given its surge in popularity and the way it seems to easily blend with other sub genres to create such a vibrant and noticable effect, is a wholly welcome development.
The arcane influences leading to occult rock; the THC and halucinogenic inspired sounds of Desert Rock, and of course, the fire and thunder of the straight-up pounding rock approach.
Then you have Death Metal… harsh, cutting, piercing, intricate and technical by nature. The savage approach assaults the senses and puts them under siege, whether it be melodic, groove orientated or straight up malevolent…. This musical beast could be considered the polar opposite of the previously mentioned genres.
But when you combine them, things happen!
Altar of Betelgeuze have been performing this combination for their long standing career, creating a truly unique and recognisable sound. Their latest release, Among the Ruins continues this combination of groove, atmosphere and intimidation.
Opening up with the riff and groove orientated ‘The Offering’, dark and murky sounds create a foggy atmosphere across the musical landscape AoB have laid out. With many similarities to Black Pyramid in terms of sound and delivery, this powerful track really hits hard. The clean vocals help build the suspense before the harsher death metal influence completely rips through the fog, freeing up your senses to enjoy the rhythmically tight wall of sound which crashes against you.
From here, it continues, touching on the genres closely associated with the stoner and doom movement and adding the ferocity of death metal to them. Hypnotic rhythmic drones, deep basslines and hints of sludge metal (and of course, Sabbath-styled deliveries) create a vibrant musical world. From the Weedeater-like “Sledge of Stones” to the classic Sabbath sounding “No Return”, to the terrifyingly Nile-like “Absence Of Light”, all senses and perceptions are altered (or should that be ‘altared’?)
Waves of crushing death metal withdraw to leave the solid rhythmic groove and riffs of doom before they twist themselves into the harsh cutting death metal melodies. Vocals switch from clean and captivating to harsh and roared with little fuss. Musical sound and style changes with little to no transition issues or awkwardness; a rather impressive feat accentuated by the way the dark and sinister tones remain, subtly hidden by the shifting sound but allowed to surface from the deep when needed.
That ability is what sets this band apart from the others who try to mix the Death and Doom genres.
With a performance like this, you have to wonder just what you need to sacrifice at Betelgeuze’s altar in order to achive such a solid, all round musical delivery. And myself… I am already prepping the old scimitar and virgin goat combo, if it means getting my rune-carven gauntlets on more albums like this!