MALIGNANT ALTAR – Realms of Exquisite Morbidity (2021)REVIEW

Houston, Texas based death metal quintet Malignant Altar didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, most’ve been involved in Gulf Coast adjacent extreme metal and/or grindcore spheres for the last decade or two. A few of ’em played in different incarnations of Insect Warfare, several currently play in Necrofier and Oceans of Slumber, yet the one blip on their collective resume that is relevant to Malignant Altar‘s sound is arguably War Master for the sake of being balls swinging-forth death metal with classic influences abounding; The main difference being this debut, ‘Realms of Exquisite Morbidity‘, doesn’t aim for the early Bolt Thrower-isms of that band. The rehearsal quality recording of their first tape/single (‘Ceremonial Decapitator‘, 2019) implied a focus on simple patternation, filthy guitar tone and standard mid-to-slow paced death/doom metal style and their popular ‘Retribution of Jealous Gods‘ demo from that same year expanded upon this with sludgier early 2000’s Morbid Angel-esque riff phrasing and full death/doom metal atmo-territory across the board, making for an intense enough spin and a solid ideation of a pure death metal sound.

Chances are you’re excited for this debut full-length with the expectation that it’ll deliver more of what ‘Retribution of Jealous Gods’ brought to the table and, well, yeah they’ve realized all implications derived from said demo in brilliant n’ booming high fidelity on ‘Realms of Exquisite Morbidity‘. The sound is there, they’ve got their own take on a certain style down and the greater chugging slow-motion punishment of Malignant Altar is all-in but I’m not sure the songwriting or riffcraft on this album lives up to what charismatic performance and bombastic rendering is available on this record. If we can properly gauge the amount of evolutionary breakthroughs had between 2019 and today “Ceremonial Decapitator” is the song to do it since it’d been their first single and it likewise features here on their debut in very slightly reworked, well-polished form albeit deep in the crack of Side B. Much as I enjoy this sort of sound design and the sub-genre on a fanatic level, the hardcorish slow-motion brutal death affect and patternation that’d attracted labels like Maggot Stomp to this band early on doesn’t necessarily hold up to repeated listens.

Most of this six song, half hour record aims for a bulldozing mid-paced approach which finds its pocket in reveal of sludge/doom metal adjacent riffs relayed via pure Incantation-esque death metal gravitas (transitions and otherwise) but arranged with a hardcorish simplicity even less spectacular than, say, Jungle Rot. There are of course a few exceptions here that stand out, namely the inspired middle section of opener “Channeling Impure Apparitions” and the generally fantastic rhythmic shifts of “Belial Rebirth” which eventually open up into a ‘Gateways to Annihilation’ style pooling. These highlights enjoyed in the context of the full listen are satisfying enough, especially as a fan of the band’s prior EP, though I can’t help but find this album underwhelming, plain but not in such a convincing classics-minded sense. I wanted to like ‘Realms of Exquisite Morbidity‘ and I’d given it countless tries, even waited for a certain mood to strike me, etc. but ultimately found myself frequently distracted by other options. That said, I know there is a huge market for this sound and the first impression is incredible so Malignant Altar‘s debut is sure to be a worthy thrill for most. A moderate recommendation on my part.

Moderate recommendation. (70/100)

Rating: 7 out of 10.
TITLE:Realms of Exquisite Morbidity
LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records
RELEASE DATE:December 10th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Death/Doom Metal

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