A lot of times I talk about records being experiences, and if you’re sick of that angle, I guess I apologize. Not every album has to be this way, mind you, but when it happens, it elevates the music to a different level, as well as my mentality. When this happens, though, it make the experience that much more intense, that much psychologically heavier.
Heolstor, the sole creator of At the Altar of the Horned God who handles vocals, guitars, bass, synths, drums, djembe, and tambourine, sinks deep into your psyche on the project’s second record “Heart of Silence.” Also the sole member of Mystagos, Heolstor covers a ton of ground here, and it’s not just metal. A lot of it is, but if you try on the gothy sides and the alluringly dark melodies, you’ll find a record that’s plenty heavy enough but also explores corners a lot of metal artists don’t visit.
“Guardian of the Threshold” thunders with noise as the keys layer in, the djembe playing feeling like spirits are on the rise. The atmosphere lures you into a vortex, synth waves feel like light beams off of clouds, and drawling singing and vicious growls leave your brains scrambled. “Anointed with Fire” bludgeons and lurches, and guitars layer in drama and wildness, shrieks maiming psyches. Animalistic carnage overflows, pounding with menace, twisting with agony and madness that burrows into your brain. “God Is in the Rain” is a cover of the Suicide Commando song, and it’s done with acidic sharpness, strangling with keys and mutilating with a strange electronic vibe that feels dark as its core. Closer “Severing Light” is noisy at the outset, unloading and using glazing melodies to keep your brain iced over. “A powerful shadow rests upon me, and I hear the sound of light,” Heolstor howls as thorny playing draws blood, the pace jostles, and raucous energy trudges and slowly fades away.
“Listen” opens the record and turns into one of the most rhythmically infectious songs of the entire year so far, a piece that slowly builds in intensity and power, Heolstor continually chanting, “Stone, leaf, bone, shadow, listen to the trees, listen to the hollow.” The playing churns, swirling around your head, making you grip for balance, echoing and leaving you gripping the walls. “Closing Circle” is murky as the drumming pierces, clean calls mixing with guttural growls. Things turn gothy and engorge, the singing is a repetitive (in a good way) cadence, and the atmosphere buzzes as guitars churn. “Heart of Silence” rushes in with black metal-style melodies and warping shrieks, clean bellowing balancing the carnage. Ugliness flattens as the tempo hypnotizes and bolts, bring alluring darkness that gets into your bloodstream and rips out your guts. “Chthonic Summoning” has a driving pace with numbing singing teaming with lurching growls, a spiritual feeling glimmering and creating brightness. The pace splatters as spoken passages haunt, melting as the hammers drop.
Psychedelically striking and ritualistic at its core, “Heart of Silence” is one of those records you won’t forget for some time after it’s over, and that’s a massive compliment to Heolstor and his At the Altar of the Horned God project. It took me a while with this to really open my mind and understand what’s going on here, and my journey with the album will continue and likely evolve. That’s an exciting path to be on, and every trip with this record has been rewarding and riveting.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/atthealtarofthehornedgod/
To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://metalodyssey.8merch.us/
Or here (Europe): https://metalodyssey.8merch.com/
For more on the label, go here: https://i-voidhangerrecords.bandcamp.com/