Pagan Altar - _Volume 1_
(Oracle Records, 1998)
by: Alvin Wee (10 out of 10)
This album means salvation for true metal devotees! Released ages ago, this only came to me recently. The lack of attention this release has got is lamentable considering this may be one of the most important re-releases in the past few years! Released as a bootleg LP with a b&w cover years ago, it soon became a highly sought-after collector's item, despite the horrendous sound quality. Now, Oracle Records has done the metal world a huge favor by finally exhuming this cult classic with a decent sound-mix. A collection of demo material, the album is monumental in its ability to evoke scales of pitch-dark epicness reached in the commercial metal world only by Candlemass' early works. By turns reminiscent of Ozzy-era Sabbath, Witchfinder General and even some of Manilla Road's slower _Dreams of Eschaton_ demo material, every single track stretches the very limitations of epic doom metal. Words cannot describe the heights these guys reach with their music, and considering the year of recording (1982, with some material written in 1979!), it's only possible to compare their pitch-black image alongside Death SS and perhaps Black Widow. Brimming with unforgettable, epic melody like the old NWOBHM bands (anyone remember Incubus?), it's bands like Pagan Altar who downright embarrass today's commercial impostors HammerFall and Nocturnal Rites. Shrouded in flowing black robes and belting out eerie dirges like "The Black Mass", the band must have cut a terrifying figure onstage as they are pictured on the front cover. It's a pity the lyrics aren't included with the CD, but lyrics like "Blue velvet shrouds the altar, black candles pierce the dark / The skulls of unbelievers peer sightless, bleached and stark" should give you an idea! NWOBHM, doom, or just plain heavy-metal, Pagan Altar are simply Gods, and if you haven't grown up on Dimmu Borgir or In Flames, there's a chance you might be true enough to realize this stands alongside the likes of Pentagram and Death SS. And if you've ever spun a Demon record on your turntable and loved it, spare no effort to lay your hands on this disc. You'll thank me for it. The label (thanks Lynn!) also sent over a T-shirt (which is on sale) with the band logo that's pretty damn cult! Visit the merchandise page at:


(article published 13/5/2001)

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