Altar of Perversion – Intra Naos (2018) REVIEW

With a wretched snap the old monkey’s paw re-opens for the second time across twenty full years of Altar of Perversion and a dozen years wait since any semblance of ritual stirred. The wish was a long time coming and ‘Intra Naos’ delivers a freshly cracked tomb’s worth of musical excess at two full hours. In grand unison since 1989 the duo of Laran (Lorenzo Ciardulli) and Calus (Emiliano Nannei) served as rhythmic propulsion for Italy’s Necromass and it’s formative iterations as Massacrator and Dark Lust. Though their exitus would happen before ‘Mysteria Mystica Zofiriana’ defined that project, their contributions were integral to that band’s lofty occult conceptions. The two wouldn’t form Altar of Perversion with Icehenge bassist Rexor until 1997 and their 1998 demo ‘The Abyss Gate Re-Opens’ was a brilliantly atmospheric take on black metal that  reminds me personally of the rawness of demo era Katharsis but the chilling riff capabilities of early Immortal and thrash-tinged Mortuary Drape as well. I highly recommend this demo to begin with, especially if you’re thrilled by the emerging visibility of occult black metal.

My own personal introduction to the project was the band’s 2001 debut full-length ‘From Dead Temples (Towards the Ast’ral Path)’ an album that only escapes many black metal fan’s halls of legend for it’s limited pressings and the sort of silly backlash from Norse black metal purists that cried supremacy over anything even remotely similarly inspired. If you don’t hear the difference between Darkthrone/Immortal and that first Altar of Perversion you should sell your copy to someone who can. The most important point I can make about ‘From Dead Temples (Towards the Ast’ral Path)’ is that is an underrepresented classic of Italian black metal, as well as a minor classic from an era otherwise soaked in the retarded gloss of symphonic black metal. You should seek it out and encourage your favorite label to secure a repress license.

That first full-length from Altar of Perversion was a mountain of a record at the time that needed an extra 7″ to fit the last twelve minutes of it’s hour long attack. It’s inherently riff-oriented (listen to “Aeongrave” immediately) black metal style was likewise capable of atmospherics as they ventured beyond typical raw black metal. This ethos and vision of extended, guitar driven rituals survives in the band’s approach nearly two decades later on ‘Intra Naos’. Around five years later the band released ‘Adgnosco Veteris Vestigia Flammae’ a 20 minute EP with two extended tracks that are an inch closer in composition and performance to the breadth of ‘Intra Naos’, particularly in the drum patterns of the first half of “Behind Stellar Angles II”. In fact this album may have been twelve years in rumination and conception but it bridges a continuity with the tumors of the past while moving onto realms far beyond.

An extensive interview from Bardo Methodology extrapolates the reasoning for the disparate presence of the band, as disinterest and personal matters whittled it’s core down to a duo re-envisioned with Calus‘ guidance in more complete control. The time it took for the longtime collaborators to produce two full hours of music is entirely reasonable considering none of it’s great length feels superfluous or pointless. To consider ‘Intra Naos’ one of the more thoughtfully arranged and personally expressive black metal opuses to date wouldn’t be ridiculous hyperbole, at least by my own standards.

Just six minutes shy of two hours across two very full discs ‘Intra Naos’ is a frightening divulgence of the altered spirit, a great work one must resign their time to and as such it portended itself a massive undertaking to analyze. You cannot simply let it’s complex rhythms and themes wash over you like the average, cheaply engineered atmospheric black metal records you’re used to falling to sleep to. Instead I found myself crawling the walls of my mind seeking out philosophical renderings, refuges from old flattening ambitions, and eventually found some resignation to it’s weight while it dominated my typical evening listening sessions. Each track stymied my ever-wandering mind and none more than the ever-cringing lurch at the heart of “Cosmic Thule, Inner Temple”. I greatly appreciate the mind-scraping that ‘Intra Naos’ provides and recognize that this sort of realized ambition is a rare and impressive thing. Still I would be irresponsible to recommend it to anyone unprepared, or -just- lightly interested in extreme metal, for the demanding nature (design) of the experience will more than likely be misunderstood by a short attention span.

For whatever reason the second set of three songs (each ~20 minutes) were most engrossing for me with “Subcosmos Archetypes” being the ultimate peak for chaotic guitar expression and the halfway disorienting feeling it gave me as I progressed to the final track. “Cosmic Thule, Inner Temple” likewise stood out as a departure from, or at least grand variant of, the insistence of the bulk of the experience. Each track has it’s moment, an apex or a dissolution that is worthwhile and though a two hour spin-time might suggest plenty of dead air, bland riffs, or pointless ambiance in fact your EQ will fully dance it’s spectrum for the entire listen. It is the sort of thing you really just have to jump into and invest an evening in, though there is no shame in just treating the discs as part I and II while giving each their own contemplation. I personally had trouble connecting with the work initially as I was expecting a bevvy of rabid black metal riffs attuned to their earliest work but, instead this elaborates that history into a great ‘epic’ that carries enormous expectations of investment. It is worthwhile and at the very least I’d say pick any track at random and see where it lands with you, chances are the best points of resonance will be carried trough in some form on the tracks that surround it.

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Artist Altar of Perversion
Type Album
Released April 15, 2018
BUY from the AJNA Offensive! BUY/LISTEN on Norma Evangelium Diaboli’s Bandcamp!
Genres

Residual void resonance. 4.0/5.0

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