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Not only is atmosphere crucial for black metal and death metal, it can be leveraged to combine the two. What's needed: a steady hand, a touch of flavor, and some style. Spanish horror-metallers Altarage did as much with their debut full length NIHL (2016), garnering acclaim for their unrepentant crush-you riffs and blackened bleakness, all housed within eight songs. Where the band would go with their sophomore album was anybody's guess, whether thicker, faster, or even more extreme. You can stream the entirety of Endinghent below before its Friday release.

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The new album finds Altarage more complex and disjointed (e.g. the introduction to "Rift"), but also more furious and straightforward (e.g. "Spearheaderon"). This stretch in a band's breadth can lead to a weakening of the overall sound; however, Endinghent coheres nicely, with especially bleak vocals present to tie the always-moving instrumentation together. Altarage understand the importance of focus and avoiding a glut of ideas, as the track lengths suggest. That said, longer tracks like the penultimate "Weighteer" explore a variety of territories, including doom and sludge.

The heightened emotional and aural aspects of black metal -- combined with the technicality, precision, and weight of death metal -- lead Endinghent toward an especially dark place. Production-wise, there's the hint of distance between listener and band: the album is cold in this respect, but not to its detriment. To wit, Endinghent's effect on you should not be a warming one; the headspace it creates should not comforting. Quickly descending, palm-muted chugs attack aggressively, and the characteristically copious blast beats retreat on occasion, allowing for more expressive -- and oftentimes harrowing -- drumwork.

"Fold Eksis" is arguably Endinghent's strongest track with its madness-inducing midsection, bookended with brief, mind-numbing heaviness. Here, Altarage finds themselves on the edge of cacophony, though careful not to breach the barrier between concrete and abstract. There are hooks for the listener to use as waypoints, but that they're embedded within deep folds of distortion and noise. Endinghent to that extent is a decodable album, offering new experiences during each re-listen. As far as horror and darkness goes, the impending winter is more than appropriate, thematically and aesthetically.

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Endinghent releases Friday via Season of Mist. Follow the band on Facebook here and Bandcamp here.

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