Hailing from Cork, Altar of Plagues are easily one of the most interesting young bands to come out of Ireland today. Their debut album White Tomb gained them international recognition, tours with the likes of Isis and Mayhem, and a hard won fanbase. With such reputable musicians as Aaron Turner (Isis/Hyrdahead Records) and Ben Frost singing their praises many were left wondering how White Tomb would ever be topped. Mammal is a brilliantly executed and wonderfully diverse album. All in all it exudes confidence beyond the band’s years and exhibits a well refined sound, as any good sophomore album should.
The four track album is an intense and hypnotic listen, to say the least. The 18 minute long opener ‘Neptune is Dead’ is astounding, much like Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘East Hastings’ as it manages to builds tension at a disquieting pace. The composition evolves majestically with each movement offering a new melodic hook. ‘Feather and Bone’ is memerising and redolent of early Isis, on a par with such stunning tracks as ‘Celestial’. ‘When the Sun Drowns in the Ocean’ is perhaps the most fascinating track, as it reflects a vast array of genres from world music to avant noise, it also exudes the albums earthly themes. Mammal (as the title might suggest) appears to be a reflection on the state of the world today. Altar of Plagues chose to record the album in the west of Ireland, in a very rural area, taking inspiration from the country’s vast and dark landscapes. Thus the album is very sombre in tone.
While Altar of Plagues shares similiraties with post black metal luminaries Wolves in the Throne Room and Krallice, Mammal showcases similiraties with the likes of Swans, My Bloody Valentine, Big Black and Ben Frost. It highlights the potential of Irish music and the influential nature of black metal music. There is an unfeigned feeling of sadness emanating from Mammal but its brilliance is ultimately uplifting. An inspiring and cathartic listen.