Here's a Danish doom act whose notable claim to fame thus far is a thematically savvy concept album about World War I, "Sinews of Anguish". Likely this is your first visitation to ALTAR OF OBLIVION as they have reaped a cult audience with a cultish enunciator helming their basics-minded doom and power metal attack.
Mik Mentor is hardly Messiah Marcolin of CANDLEMASS, but he attempts to recreate the latter's arcane timbres and forlorn swoons, even if there are shakes of Glenn Danzig's lower octaves in the mix and they stymie Mentor more than they grace him. Frankly, most folks are going to be put off by Mentor's "Strentorian Narration and Ars Melancholia" if they're not Euro doom purists. His wallowing vocals are wanton, funereal and quasi-operatic, inviting only if you are one depressed mutt. Of course, that's the point and it's not that Mentor lacks conviction. He certainly has it, but his tracks save for one tend to overpower the rest of the merely-there ALTAR OF OBLIVION on their latest release, "Grand Gesture of Defiance".
ALTAR OF OBLIVION does have a few good things going for them on this album. The stepped-up guitar instrumental "The Smoke-Filled Room" has almost nothing to do with doom and that's a plus, even though it's apparent their guest musicians Lars Strom and Jesper Leth steal the show. The soothing allure of "The Smoke-Filled Room" isn't quite capitalized on the subsequent track "Sentenced in Absentia", albeit Allan B. Larsen and Martin Meyer Mendelssohn Sparvath lay down a wicked solo section to avoid the inevitable perplexing question of "Why so timid?" This is the question many writers of the metal press have been proverbially asking, knowing that ALTAR OF OBLIVION has the power within themselves to be concussive with this album instead of merely suppressive.
The album's closer "Final Perfection" is the one to stick around for. Everything ALTAR OF OBLIVION hints at along the chained-up construct of "Grand Gesture of Defiance" culminates beautifully here. Once again aided by Lars Strom, the weeping guitar lines personify angst, sorrow and ultimately salvation. The Mellotron tapestries and faux choral segments add to the majesty of "Final Perfection", while Mik Mentor tempers his would-be theatrics and serves the song's sculpted grandiosity with a tasteful match of the high and low melodies. There are genuine climaxes and serene after-effects to "Final Perfection" and indeed, the song is perfect. Cathartic, even.
Perhaps this is the reason "Grand Gesture of Defiance" as a whole is only decent doom instead of all-encapsulating. If held to the songwriting standards of "Final Perfection" and "The Smoke-Filled Room", this album would've been one of the year's inordinate genre statements. The rest of the album works too much in primary and withholds itself behind its frontman's lurching din. "Grand Gesture of Defiance" is checked-down and in this market, that's just gaining a few steps forward at best.
- Ray Van Horn, Jr.