Altair – Descending: A Devilish Comedy Review
Album: Descending: A Devilish Comedy
Label: Sleaszy Rider
Genre: Power Metal
Release Date: 30 June 2017
Six men sit in a room together. Instruments and amplifiers line the walls, leaving a central space where the band can meet. The air is heavy with concentration as they rack their brains to develop a concept for their second full-length record. The lead guitarist suddenly perks up, looks at the others excitedly and flings a pick at the drummer, who has fallen asleep. “Guys, I’ve got it!” We’ll do the exact same thing everyone else does, and mix in most of what we did last time for good measure!”
The careers of those six musicians probably never left that room.
But not to worry, those guys weren’t Altair, the power metal sextet hailing from Italy, who only use the rule book as a coaster to protect their equipment from careless drinkers. Each member brings something very unique to the table, allowing the band to serve up a meal with all flavor and no filler. If you haven’t caught my point yet, then I’ll just come out and say it plainly.
They are very, very innovative.
Descending: A Devilish Comedy is Altair’s second album, and is a conceptual journey through some of the darkest parts of our minds. These nine tracks demonstrate the band’s complete capabilities; not only soaring vocals, stratospheric guitar leads, and high flying melodies on the keys, but also deep, heavy riffs that dig deep into the mud and root themselves in your mind. Bang your head all you want, but you can’t dislodge them once they have clawed into your brain.
The guitar department is managed by Gianmarco Bambini and Albert Marshall. The album credits do not designate “lead” or “rhythm” for these two. It isn’t an oversight. In all nine tracks, riffs and solos are tossed back and forth between them in the most epic game of hot potato ever heard. Their dynamic is like how Michael Abbot and Jeff Loomis operate in Arch Enemy. Each musician plays what needs to be played and are not forced into pre-determined roles. The extra melodic element brought by the keyboard allows them to intertwine rhythm sections together in a unique way while the melody carries on.
Speaking of keyboards, Enrico Ditta uses them to play multiple roles. A haunting symphonic riff can turn into ambient background and back to symphonic again to create the mood for the entire album. Then add the leads played over Bambini and Marshall’s rhythm and you would think you have a complete package…but wait, there’s more! On several tracks these three play tag with their solos and the end result can’t help but put a smile on your face.
Simone Caparrucci on drums and Luca Scalabrin on bass keep the melodic elements in line with straightforward, steady rhythm. Wait…that’s a lie. Truthfully, both drums and bass are as unpredictable as the rest of the band. Caparrucci guides the entire ensemble through complex time signatures and rhythm changes like a ranch hand on a cattle drive. Hurry the stragglers and shoot the wounded; if you can’t keep up, you don’t belong in this band. Fortunately, his five mates keep up just fine. One of those is Scalabrin on bass. While frequently maintaining the rhythm and thumping those who get out of line, he sometimes runs off with some extremely melodic riffing to throw his hat into the ring of the Ditta – Bambini – Marshall rumble.
Finally, Simone Mala caps the entire ensemble on the microphone. I earlier mentioned that this band soars to satellite highs and bombs into hellish lows, as expected with the diversity of musicianship operating the instruments. Mala does all that with his voice. When he wants to soar, he does so like all the best rock and metal singers, but when he wants to dig deep, he can add as much grit into his voice as a motorcycle accident in a gravel quarry.
Right now, you are looking at the white space beneath this paragraph and thinking, “Wait! Which songs are best? Which ones should I put into my (insert digital media outlet here) playlist? The lyrics of Descending: A Devilish Comedy remind you that this is a deep exploration of those things inside you that must stay hidden. And to be honest, the album is meant to be listened to in its entirety; from beginning to end. It is not an album for singles, or songs to be shuffled into your favorite playlist. It is an experience, in its totality, like a movie. Now that you have read all this, I will let you in on the secret of this album. Play it from beginning to end, then start again. The final track, “A Lesson Before Ascending” flows seamlessly into the intro, “Descending”. Each time the record loops around, you hear different aspects of it you missed before: you also discover more places in your mind you thought were hidden forever. Good luck with that.
2. Path of Worms
6. Seed of Violence
7. Flame of Knowledge
8. Frozen Graves
9. A Lesson Before Ascending
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