Review: “The Eternal Penance” by Nine Altars

Their expressions ranging from the grotesque to the pious, stone figures and faces of forgotten characters can be seen in the stonework of Durham Cathedral that lead to the Chapel of the Nine Altars, a place where Fenwick Lawson’s huge sculpture, ‘Pietà’ of beechwood and brass, depicting a grieving Mary and a dead Jesus is found. Perhaps that is where Durham based Doom Metal act Nine Altars take their name as they follow in the footsteps of their influences in Candlemass, Saint Vitus and Pentagram, as they look to ascend to new heights with a trio of cuts in “The Eternal Penance“. Recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by Neil Combstock (Mortal Chains, Thronehammer, Zeerox) at Rocking Horse Studio in the winter of 2021-22 and adorned by “Church Ruins In Snow” by Carl Georg Adolph Hasenpflug from 1853 it finds drummer and vocalist Kat Gillham joined by bassist Jamie Thomas and guitarist duo Charlie Wesley and Nicolete Burbach…

Being at the end of the Doom scale where the scales of justice begin to tip into the more Traditional side of the genre, this debut record can be considered a full length album as it surpasses the 33 minute mark, the title track passing 13 of those minutes alone. Cleverly, the guru that is Neil Combstock has assisted the band in finding the essence of an early 1970’s sound in the studio, giving the record a far older and less polished quality than modern offerings and in turn a real nostalgic feel. Slow, tar thick, warm and fuzzy riffs are there to be worshipped with a solemn and sobering lyric from Gillham as release from punishing ones self for ones crimes is searched for in death. Momentary leads have been incorporated to add an ethereal touch which accompanies with monolithic beasts meditative qualities nicely. Slightly brighter riffs bring “The Fragility Of Existence” to life with a little more tempo, the power of the bands offering immense. While the opening cut kept the lead guitar work to a minimum with fleeting, mournful moments, here the band go a little further down the left hand path with a tasteful extended solo which is very much in keeping with their sound rather than taking a risk and boldly doing anything virtuoso. It works well, gently breathing new life into the song without killing any of the vibe. Vocals appear in the first second of “Salvation Lost“, a song with no introduction which at first catches off guard but then grows over multiple listens. A Black Sabbath influence is exposed as the cut plays out, the band in familiar territory on this one while playing with tempo changes as they build their rhythms like piles of burning books. Gillham reaches momentary Dio inspired power before everything fades to black and the sound of the wind is that of Desertfest calling. [7/10]

Track Listing

  1. The Eternal Penance
  2. The Fragility Of Existence
  3. Salvation Lost

The Eternal Penance” by Nine Altars via Good Mourning Records and is available for pre-order here.

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