The Beast of the Apocalypse

A Voice from the Four Horns of the Golden Altar

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Wow, it seems like absolutely anyone can get a record deal these days, even the Beast of the Apocalypse himself! All kidding aside -- this is a band, not Mr. Lucifer -- A Voice from the Four Horns of the Golden Altar, the spectacularly named debut album from this Dutch black metal duo, actually sounds as if it were recorded in the ninth circle of hell -- or at least mastered from a fifth generation cassette-to-cassette copy with external noise being a welcome interference. Oh yeah, and this was done entirely on purpose, of course, because the members of TBOTA champion the less-is-more philosophy pervading the nether reaches of black metal's darkest fringe, whereupon conjuring the most primitive, unrefined, and ancient-seeming aesthetic is what it's all about. Never mind that not even the genre's ultimate formative forefathers, Venom, or arguably its latter day arch-atavists, Mayhem, ever sounded quite this raw or under-produced themselves, thus making TBOTA's retroactive experiment both ironic and, technically speaking, impossible. But enough with philosophy, on to the music, which can definitely be heard back there, somewhere, amid the nearly impenetrable murk so painstakingly obscuring the multi-instrumentalist duo's actually very accomplished musicianship and songwriting. This touches on every feasible tempo (slow, fast, faster, fastest) and negative emotion (despair, hatred, disgust) found within the typical bounds of black metal's expansive domain, even touching on a few symphonic passages. But perhaps the real shame here is that the untold layers of muck covering the musicians' lusty grunts render their lyrics -- purportedly inspired by the apocryphal texts of primeval times, whatever that means -- utterly indecipherable! As a result, one is left to puzzle over the terrifying ambience and unquestionable conviction driving TBOTA's anti-mission unaided by words, but then perhaps that's exactly the point, making this album an unmitigated triumph where shock value is concerned. So for those valuing maximum sonic de-evolution as an artistic triumph unto itself -- or just a moshing, satanic good time -- A Voice from the Four Horns of the Golden Altar probably achieves a new rust-standard within this peculiar musical sect of worship.

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