Released: 2017, Transcending Obscurity
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
As many times as I’ve listened to AMONG THE RUINS, not ONCE did that wacky, mischievous character in the striped suit make an appearance. Epic…fail.
That disappointment aside, the sophomore full length from Helsinki’s Altar of Betelgeuze is a pretty solid collection of stoner infused doom-death. Musically the band mingles traditional Sabbath-tinged stoner doom a la Candlemass and Lord Vicar with contrasting clean vocals and death growls. It’s an ambitious pairing that doesn’t always make sense, but the songs persevere regardless and deliver a classic doom record in the process.
“The Offering” opens AMONG THE RUINS with a dark, groovy crunch and some slick Iommi infused licks. Matias Nastolin delivers a convincing lower end vocal performance that jives well with the tune and sets up expectations for what’s to follow. “Sledge of Stones” then makes its slow emergence, rising like the fog across the moors. Olli Suurmunne handles the vocals for this go ‘round, and surprise surprise – dude sounds like the lovechild of Ray Alder and Chris Cornell. The guy has an AMAZING set of pipes that so naturally complements this style of music, that you wonder why the band is spinning their wheels with the high/low angle.
But then you find yourself in the midst of tunes like “New Dawn” and the title track, and you begin to understand the method to their madness. “New Dawn” is predominantly swaggering, blues based doom crunch, and Suurmunne’s golden voice personifies the overall vibe. As the tune begins to unwind into darker and more foreboding territory, Nastolin’s growl manages to convey the feeling of impending dread as the bass strings rumble below. Same concept for the title track, although it’s more ethereal and mythic in its delivery, almost proggy at times.
Loaded with tight jams, spacey riffs and a penchant for quality songwriting, AMONG THE RUINS is a fantastic record through and through. Even with the absence of Michael Keaton and some initial uncertainty, Altar of Betelgeuze have delivered an early contender for my year-end list.