Where to begin? Oh, good grief, where to begin? Teethed Glory and Injury, the latest record from Ireland’s sonic visionaries Altar of Plagues, is, in the truest sense of the word, an extraordinary record. It is a record that is going to divide opinion, start arguments and confound pretty much anyone who comes into contact with it.
Where to begin? Teethed Glory and Injury is a record of sonic experimentation. Rooted in what can only be loosely descibed as blackened heavy metal, it is a record that has gone so far beyond the limits of simple genre as to make categorization almost meaningless. The nine pieces of music here (I had previously written the word “songs” but songs these most certainly are not) are some of the most challenging and provocative that I have heard in a long, long time.
This is a twisted and complex record, sonically and aesthetically. From the beautifully photographed black and white album cover of a ballet dancer in repose, through the enigmatic video for God Alone, the album’s teaser track (there’s no way you could call this piece of music a “single”) to the recording and production of the entire edifice, you get the sense that this is a record that is intentionally confounding, intentionally provocative and gleefully willful. Teethed Glory and Injury plays with your senses and your sense of what is possible with equal pressure. At times the record made me feel nauseous and giddy- in fear as well as excitement; at times, it was threatening and violent in its aural assault. By the end of the album, I felt drained, uneasy and slightly out of sorts- it was a proper WTF moment.
As for the individual pieces of music themselves, you may already be familiar with the brutality of God Alone; there are tribal rhythms underpinning the often metronomic Found Oval and Final; Scald Scar of Water sounds like what might happen had Darkthrone met My Bloody Valentine on a long, dark of the soul and whilst Reflection Pulse Remains sounds the simplest of all the tracks here, sonically at least, it too has a depth, complexity and dizzying passages of relentless intensity. Above all, there is no fat, no padding. This is an object lesson in aural claustrophobia.
Teethed Glory and Injury is an album that is by turns, brutal, harrowing, cantankerous, objectionable, bleak, thrilling, difficult and not always pleasant to listen to: but isn’t life sometimes like that? I’m not yet sure whether I like this record or am appalled by it: it did, however, leave me agog. With Altar of Plagues, you always got the sense that this was a band capable of something quite special but with this record they haven’t just exceeded expectations, they have smashed them beyond all recognition.