(Season Of Mist Underground Activists)

01. Negative Arrival
02. Magno Evento
03. Maneuvre
04. Foregone
05. Drainage Mechanism
06. Watcher Witness
07. Fair Warning
08. Lavath
09. Forja
10. Inwards
11. Vour Concession
12. Devorador De Mundos

RATING: 8.5/10

When extreme metal takes us, the listener, on a trip through a sustained, suffocating whirlwind of existential torment and pitch-black fury, well, it's probably not going to be for everyone. But for those that have surrendered to the extraordinary and unique noise that ALTARAGE have been making since their 2015 demo, "XXMV", "Succumb" provides another unmissable opportunity to embrace the madness. This Spanish crew play death metal in much the same way that a combine harvester trims the grass: relentlessly full bore, but also with every last glimmer of light sucked from the sonic spectrum. The result is certainly recognizable as death metal, but it's much more like being sucked into an unholy vortex of suffering. Again, possibly not everyone.

There are precedents for this kind of hellish barrage, of course. Trace echoes of IMMOLATION's unassailable catalogue can be heard clearly when ALTARAGE are rattling along at full pelt. And if you've ever wondered what PORTAL would sound like if you could actually hear the riffs properly, songs like "Drainage Mechanism" and "Magno Evento" confirm that a dash of clarity leads to more atmosphere, not less. That sense of churning, abyssal terror is still there amid the slithering myopia and never-ending crescendo of "Foregone" and in more brutish and succinct material like the comparatively straightforward "Inwards". But thanks to a production that is all muscle and sinew, held together by a persistent, bowel-rattling ambient roar from oblivion's depths, the balance between destruction and disturbance is just about perfect.

Despite its remorseless, monochrome aesthetic, ALTARAGE's sound has expanded since the tunnel-vision rampage of 2016's "Nihl" debut. This album's final two tracks provide particularly convincing evidence. "Vour Concession" reimagines the Spaniards' hell-for-leather blitzkrieg as a marauding, mid-paced ritual, concluding with an unsettling rush of grim ambience. Closing epic "Devorador De Mundos" is simply horrifying, in the best possible way, as ALTARAGE open the doom floodgates, allowing hope itself to collapse in slow motion as hell's gaping maw spews disintegrating, blackened noise from the sonic shadows for a punishing and pitiless 21 minutes.

The world may be enjoying some cautious optimism right now, but ALTARAGE are hell-bent on crushing that spark of positivity under one giant, cockroach-encrusted boot. Come along for the ride or don't. We're all heading for the same destination either way.


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