ALAS is the new side-project of MORBID ANGEL's 2nd guitarist Erik Rutan featuring Martina Astner of THERION-fame on vocals. Best of all, let's make things clear: Death Metal this is NOT. I mean, sure you can find traces of the Floridian gods in this album, but they only lie in the keyboard-orchestrations and in the intricacy of the compositions. But make no mistakes, the whole record is awesome. All the writing jobs here belong to Rutan and the first thing you can notice listening to the album is the exceptional task he accomplished.
The compositions retain way the best songwriting I've ever heard in a while, the guitarwork being simply amazing, technical as hell, but still complementing the songs in a very proficient manner. Also, despite the fact that the strongest thing anyone can notice on first listen is the impressive guitarwork, the keyboard-orchestrations and the drums/bass-lines underneath really shine in several moments, taking things to a deeper level of musicality. Maybe the record need repeated listens to be completely appreciated, due to the fact that it's so complex, but it grows on you more and more with the ability to seep into your mind after every listen. Trust me, for sure this is complex, but it's far from boring (unlike the majority of the hyper-technical Prog-bands out there). The intricacy of the songs doesn't outweigh their enjoyment at all, resulting really focused.
Well, the only complaint I can make of this album is in the vocal-department. The vocal lines are definitely operatic, tending to create an atmospheric yet dark mood in the songs. Unfortunately, the singer almost ruins it all. Don't get me wrong, surely Martina can do the work, but please could someone explain to me why she attempts to sing almost all the lines in the soprano range when she clearly seems to be a natural alto? The obvious consequence is the total lack of power (control, too) when she hits the high notes. It's kinda annoying.
However, being this the only flaw I found on the whole record, I'm gonna rate this album very high 'cos the music really deserves it.