Review: IRON ALTAR – ‘PROMETHEAN’

Still fresh from conquering the Jagermeister stage at this year’s Bloodstock Festival, Edinburgh’s IRON ALTAR are set to drop their second album at the end of September. Formed in 2016, the band churns out a blend of progressive, sludge, and death metal.

Starting the album with ‘THE END’ we are introduced to an ominous guitar riff before chaos is unleashed with an up-tempo pummelling assault. The band really seems to know how to build tension. Letting the riff circulate just a little longer building anticipation. It’s a full minute before the band kicks in as a whole, and it is ferocious! Singer Andrew Callis sounds utterly terrifying with his vocals sounding not too dissimilar to Jens Kidman from Meshuggah or Klas Rydberg (Ex-Cult Of Luna). Underpinning his guttural howls are dissonant chords and Gojira-esque riffs laid down by guitarists Neil Mathers and Dan Drever. Think Crowbar but with tighter sounding guitars.

Moving on to ‘HUNTED’ and it feels like we’re in more solid death metal territory here. Drummer Linz Mackenzie Conway gets a severe workout on this one, dishing out blast beats and heaps of groove in equal measure. There’s no shortage of dark atmospherics on display and ‘MORTALITY’ is a perfect example. At the halfway mark there is a spacious interlude that adds some beauty to the barbarity, like looking up at the sky whilst standing in a warzone.

Lead single ‘MEGALITH’ tears along at a rapid pace. It feels like being chased by a wild animal and there are some nice technical guitar fills in there. Callis definitely gives off more than a hint of Randall D. Blythe on this one! There’s a level of maturity to the songwriting here that has been honed in the seven years Iron Altar have been in existence.

‘SHANIDAR’ serves as an instrumental precursor to the final track ‘PRIMAL RITES’. It’s a quick breather before heading into the album’s final stretch, full of moody-sounding chords played on distorted guitars and some ‘Black Sabbath’-esque drum work. There even appear to be acoustic guitars thrown in for good measure. And for the closer ‘PRIMAL RITES’, IRON ALTAR pull out all the stops and raise the intensity even higher.

You won’t find any guitar solos on this album. What you will find is some of the most no-nonsense crushing metal you’ll hear this year spread across the nine tracks.

‘PROMETHEAN’ is certainly one of the best-sounding metal albums I’ve heard in a very long time. Producer Lewis Johns has done an outstanding job making everything sound crisp and clear. You can even hear the bass played by bassist Jamie Scougall, who left the band shortly after the album was recorded with Greg Armstrong stepping in as a full-time member.

Not only does this album sound incredible but it looks it too. The cover resplendent in artwork by Kevin Doran of Serpent Tusk Studio.

This album is a primal voyage from start to finish. Relentless, unforgiving, and essential listening!

IRON ALTAR have definitely raised the bar for the Edinburgh metal scene and now they have their sights set on the rest of the metal community.

Available September 29th, more information here.

Review – Colin Plumb

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