Existential Annihilation: ALTARAGE - Succumb Review

63 minutes of ego-shattering blackened death metal.

Photograph by Void Vanguard

Words by Ryan McCarthy (@ave_mors):

Boasting what appears to be a brand new, sci-fi-style logo, Spanish madmen ALTARAGE return with their fourth full length, entitled simply Succumb - and succumb the listener shall. ALTARAGE caught my eye, or more accurately my ear, in 2019 with the release of their third full length, The Approaching Roar. That was actually my first exposure to ALTARAGE, but as a devoted fan of bands like Portal and Impetuous Ritual, I’d estimate it took roughly three seconds of listening for me to fall in love with the band. ALTARAGE offers a bit more on the production front than their aforementioned Australian counterparts, while maintaining all of the most important musical similarities - namely, extremely detuned guitars, chaotic and fluid blast beats, and punishingly slow doom sections.


Among this community of grimy, downtuned, and chaotic blackened death metal bands, ALTARAGE manages to stand out by bringing something rather notable to the table - and it isn’t just production value. No, what helps ALTARAGE stand apart is the fact that parts of this record are memorable, groovy, and downright catchy. Amidst the veritable flood of relentlessly swirling tremolo riffs and musicianship that shows an almost complete disregard for the conventional limitations of the fretboard, ALTARAGE manages to seamlessly incorporate slower, groovier sections that both break up the monotony and serve as a payoff - a sort of beauty in the madness - for the listener.


The identities of the band members remain a closely guarded secret, a feat that’s becoming more and more impressive in today’s increasingly digital and interconnected world. I’m not entirely sure why the collective insists on anonymity, but I can’t say I don’t appreciate the intrigue it adds to ALTARAGE as an entity. What little information we do possess is that the band hails from Bilbao, a city in the north of Spain and only a few hours away from Madrid. Part of me wonders if the band shares any members with Aversio Humanitatis, a similarly off-kilter and existentially-themed band. Indeed, Encyclopedia Metallum lists ALTARAGE's lyrical topics as simply “Existence.” I can’t speak for everyone else, but it seems to me that ALTARAGE has a pretty god damn bleak outlook on life if this is the art that existing has inspired them to create. The press release, perhaps attempting to shed a bit more light on this pitch black affair, states simply that the record’s “origin lies in the destructiveness of nostalgia, among other things……” Cryptic? Yeah. But cool sounding? You bet your ass.


Bands like ALTARAGE are truly pushing the black and death metal scenes into less accessible and more chaotic territory, and I’m all for it. Succumb serves as a reminder to the intrepid listener that metal will always have envelope-pushers, iconoclasts, and musicians who blur the line between genius and schizophrenia. This record is nothing short of visionary and its execution is nothing short of inspired.

Succumb arrives April 23rd via Season of Mist. Pre-order your copy of the record HERE.

Cover art by David Jorquera