Altarage deliver sounds of geometric hell, sightless angles that stab and jut, like a cold blanket of sharp, black ice. Their latest record, Succumb, out now via Season of Mist, stretches those notions. This time, in a cubist manner, where backwards is forwards, and forward is sideways. It’s music that is surface-level minimal, meaning it has anti-meaning, dust from the void.
“The album revolves around the destructive power of time and the claustrophobic feeling of living in the past,” the nameless guitarist and singer of the group explains. “There are other things floating around, but, in general, unpleasant and harmful vibes were all over when writing this collection of songs.”
And so, 12 tracks blend in and around one another in hopeless precision, offering gargles from inter-dimensions, screams of extension and stretching, but not-quite-horror-laden, abstract from that directness. You feel the hostility towards a common understanding or reasoning. An anger that is resolved yet continually refined.
“We approach every record the same way, affected by our mundane existence and the trivialities of life, with all that implies.”
The corners are shaped, then, by continuance, a grey area of working out feeling, as opposed to direct application. For Altarage, the notion of experimental is moot. The band are the direction, not the other way around. And here, it sounds as if the simulation is therefore achieved through a non-simulative process. Experimental direction is illusion.
“Experimental, for me, is like doing trial and error, to try new things and wait if they work or don’t, and we don’t go down that road. I don’t feel like we’re experimenting at all because we do what we have to do, that is pleasing ourselves doing whatever is necessary. We have a way of doing things, and the progression between albums is always natural and organic. We go at our own pace in our own world.”
Lost and yet centered is where that pace leads, as in the record’s closer, “Devordor De Mundos,” a 20-minute excursion into mind walking, skipping existential stones into eternity’s Great Lake. A beast of angst and tunneling, you’re likely to drift into non-time, or absolute relativity: the thing and the non-thing. The band’s guitarist and singer offers a clue:
“In a way, it can be seeing as a giant sonic wave representing time crushing and erasing everything, but the best the listener can do is to dive into the murky waters that is the whole album and get to his or her own conclusions. I can tell that this song works in both ways: end and beginning. Just wait until next time.”
There is endless calculation on Succumb, even if there is no intended calculation. That is exactly the point. It’s an exercise in humility, a sort of life-scan of a band without any particular plan or purpose in regards to an end. And in this, it’s something that has the power to transform its geometric totality, even bending or creating something of a circular outer rim, much like an event horizon, where, once you’ve crossed over, you can never go back to your natural, original form. The band are moving, though, and the new record speaks to its non-process, process, one that is working: a Zen moment if you will.
“I can feel where we’re heading when I have new songs written. Before that, everything is a mystery, anything can happen, with no exact direction but right now, as usually at this stage, I have the privilege of seeing the future in that matter.”
Falling farther and farther into the nonviable solution, Altarage keep their trail hidden.
Listen to Succumb below, and pick up a copy and merch here.
Images courtesy of Altarage.