When I tried to imagine what this album was going to sound like, all I could think of was "drone". I mean, it's BORIS and SUNN0)))...what else could it be? Well, I was right. "Altar" drones heavy and dirty, caressing you with bass frequencies and lashing you guitar feedback. But, to my surprise, that's not all it does. This album goes into territories previously untouched by either band and for that reason, it comes out as one of the best releases this year. Mark my words.
The boys (and girls) that made this album are very adamant in pointing out that this is not a split album. Instead, this is pure collaboration, with all of the members of both bands joining in on the writing process, helped out by a few special guests. Jesse Sykes (of JESSE SYKES AND THE SWEET HEREAFTER) lends her beautiful vocals to "The Sinking Belle" and "Fried Eagle Mind", taking a straight lead-vocal approach in the former and a more back seat, atmospheric approach in the latter. Captain Joe Preston (THRONES, ex-MELVINS, ex-HIGH ON FIRE, ex-EARTH) messes around with "Akuma No Kuma", providing his wonderfully distorted vocals and typical lyrics about bears. The "more salmon!" part brings a tear to my eye. But that's not all! We've got Kim Thayal (SOUNDGARDEN) blasting forth his take on the drone sound in closer "Blood Swamp". It's a great line-up, indeed and they don't disappoint.
So what does "Altar" sound like? It's sort of a bastard child of "Lysol"-era MELVINS, THRONES and SPARKLEHORSE. Some parts sound like SUNN0))) with drums and some parts sound like BORIS either without vocals or with another vocalist. That's a funny fact that I should mention - three of these songs have vocals, but none of the vocals are actually provided by any members of the contributing bands. An odd choice, but the end result suffers not a bit because of it.
I highly recommend this album in virtue of the fact that it is awesome. "Altar" will bludgeon you until you're cowering in the corner, convince you that it's safe to come back out and then bludgeon you again. And who doesn't want that?
(Online November 17, 2006)