Altars Of Grief – Iris

Band: Altars Of Grief
Album: Iris
Label: Hypnotic Dirge Records
Release Date: 21 March 2018
Country: Canada
Format reviewed: CD-quality digital

When a music album emboldens such vivid visuals – it unfolds as a cinematographic masterpiece, in the mind of the listener.

And as in a silver screen award contender drama, this album begins it’s timeline in retrospective. Ex post facto we find the protagonist, alone, “in solitude and twisted steel” – a tragic ending in itself, to an escape journey. A casualty on a road to nowhere. Tormented by regrets, yet “finally at peace in frozen isolation“. 

Appropriately defined (by the band) as “Prairie Doom Metal”, the blackened solemn doom of ALTARS OF GRIEF (hailing from Regina in the Saskatchewan province of Canada) unambiguously provides the soundtrack to the landscape of harrowing human emotions, on this conceptual release.

Emptiness. Beseeching in vain about the unalterable tragic faith of the loved one left behind. Relentless lament. Hopelessly, the bitter faith is mutual: “(..) with this departure / I’ll be with you once again” … Desolation

Musically, “Iris” is on absolute par with it’s ravishing lyrical parts, uncloaking intricate layering of grandiosely arranged density. Beautiful, melancholic foundation to sorrowful emotions, disrupted only by intense anguish. A truly memorable production.

Failed faith. Failed Gods. “(..) she appears / Iris, stained with blood”. A parent’s agonizing lament over the grave loss of a child. The desperate helplessness of influencing the innocent’s faith … “My god! / I’ll see the Heaven’s burn! / I’ll never forgive you for this!” 

Vocally, the songs’ compelling dialogue, alternating between clean, resonating vocals and desperate, agonizing growl, perfectly perorate the conflicting feelings emerging from the lyrics.

Mournful surrender. Lifeless. Cold. One last strife to deities … “(..) I surrender / My faith unto you / You who has taken / Everything from me”. Impossible resignation: “I know I have failed you / Child of light / Go now, your heaven awaits.” Innocent snow. Unjust damnation. 

The eerily peaceful yet gloomy cover art (by Travis Smith), depicting a young girl kneeling in front of a church in the dead of winter, is a further, flawless illustration to the album’s content. No band logo or album title is present on the front cover.

Late. Too late. A last dirge: “(..) longing for lost days / I’m faced with my failures.” Remorse. Exonerating from personal defeat. “When I close my eyes / I’ll pray for all of this to end.” Fractured, broken hymns of smoldering memories. 

The run-of-the-mill conceptual albums usually focus on mostly banal subjects. The overwhelming psycho-emotional content of “Iris” deals exclusively with conventional attributes encompassing humanity: sickness, loss, addiction, religious beliefs, etc. Raw, unfiltered human tragedy takes center stage on this multi faceted, profound release. 

Tumultuous inner agony: “I am alone / My god, why have you gone?” Desperate attempts to perceive control. Self-blame: “Buried alive / In the graves I have made” Acceptance and apathy: “Voices of winter / Beckon me forward …”

ALTARS OF GRIEF had always managed to exhibit thru their music the human’s contrasting emotions. Almost as a preview to “Iris” was the 2015 split release (with Nachtterror): “Of Ash And Dying Light”, which set high anticipation. Expectations were indisputably transcended with the release of “Iris”. 

All is lost. No return. Stoic passivity … “Waiting for the end again.” Peaceful endurance: “I guess this path was truly flawed …” Becoming intangible: “Judgment comes with revelation / I’ve never felt this close to God … “ Fade to black. 

Epilogue – responsible for the collective effort of “Iris” are: Damien Smith (vocals), Erik Labossiere (guitars/vocals), Evan Paulson (guitars/vocals/programming), Donny Pinay (bass/vocals) and Zack Bellina (drums/vocals). Raphael Weinroth-Browne wrote and performed all the cello parts present on the album, including track 8. Recorded, mixed & mastered by Justin Bender at Blue Door Recording & Retrosleep Studios, locally in Regina, Saskatchewan. 10/10 By UHF

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10/10 Immortal classic

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