Altar of Oblivion

Sinews of Anguish

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The hulking monument left by Sweden's Candlemass looms large over many bands, but especially Denmark's Altar of Oblivion, whose first album, Sinews of Anguish, traffics in the same sort of epic doom metal capped with operatic vocals as that which Messiah Marcolin, Leif Edling, and their comrades raised to legendary status during the second half of the 1980s. Decades on, none have ever truly matched it -- heck, few have even tried -- but Altar of Oblivion sure give it a good shot with this conceptual song-suite about a WWII German soldier's horrifying experience on the Eastern Front. Needless to say, the story line is an attraction in itself, being staged exceptionally well from start to finish, but it's ultimately the massive staccato riffs composed by Martin Mendelssohn and the very powerful lungs of Mik Mentor that will win over most cynics, as they conspire to produce magically morose and majestic results on highlights like "Wrapped in Ruins," "Behind the Veil of Nights," and "Casus Belli." Impressive opener "The Final Pledge" also utilizes eerie synthesizer backdrops to great effect, and the haunting "A Retreat into Delusions" features wonderful flute contributions from one Cheryl Pyle. In fact, Mentor only drops the ball while abusing the lower limits of his range (see the beginning of "My Pinnacle of Power," among others), and some songs do get a little ponderous at times ("Stainless Steel," the 11-minute title track) -- not enough to derail the album's steady flow, however, nor diminish the merits of Altar of Oblivion's lofty ambitions, making this an impressive first chapter to a promising career.

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