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Review

At the Altar of the Horned God – Through Doors of Moonlight Review

Band: At the Altar of the Horned God
Album: Through Doors of Moonlight
Label: I, Voidhanger Records
Genre: Black Metal, Dark Wave
Country: Spain
Release Date: April 17th, 2020
For Fans Of: Spectral Lore, Oranssi Pazuzu, Mosaic

Although I no longer practice, I grew up a pretty devout practitioner of a cult-like religion that stressed how ritualism and the constant acknowledgement of death and suffering could free us from the shackles of desire and doom. I am speaking, of course, of Catholicism. I have always appreciated Catholicism’s embrace of ritual, which it inverted and stole from the more popular pagan religions that came before it. Black metal’s more recent influx in artists exploring religious themes, be it ancient, esoteric, or modern, is the genre’s natural progression. Religion is an oddly perfect thematic element to black metal, particularly when done well. And newcomers At the Altar of the Horned God do it well. 

At the Altar of the Horned God is the project of sole member Heolstor, conceived of as an ode to nature. The nature represented in this project is not the harsh landscape predominating much of black metal outputs. Nor is it the pastoral visions of Thomas Kinkade. For At the Altar of the Horned God, nature is a primordial force represented in the many avatars found in ancient religions. A force that can, and should, be summoned. And that is exactly what Through Doors of Moonlight intends to do. 

The album opens with “A Ka Dua”, a distorted and droney rendition of the Egyptian prayer of the same name. It’s the perfect opener, setting the aural landscape that the listener is beginning to embark upon. Before the Flames of Undefiled Knowledge keeps the energy moving, opening with the haunting chants of the Mad Monk himself, Aleister Crowly, and slowly devolving into layers of industrial humming and crunching, converging with a ritualistic chanting and drumming that all work to create an atmosphere that is thickened with incense, candles, and dusty leather-bound books. 

The opening tracks push fiercely into an absolutely crushing raw black metal track, harkening back to the lofi, old school noisy black metal of the early nineties. These moments of ferocity, few as they are, work to break up the droning ritualism that makes up the majority of this album. Though abrasive as they are, they don’t feel out of place in this album. In fact, nothing really feels out of place throughout this entire experience of an album. The explicitly black metal tracks build and swirl, the droning tracks fill the spaces and transport you from one state to the next. Each song builds off of the latter and bleeds into the next. Does the chanting sometimes drag on a bit long? Yes. But never to the point of doldrum.

Through Doors of Moonlight intends to send you into a trance-like state, filled with visions of the great horned god of the ancient world that you must pay tribute to. It does so by blending Georgian chanting, organs, pagan prayers, raw black metal, and the atmosphere only dark wave could produce. It’s a mix of sound that only black metal could pull together, and only black metal could make work. And this album works. Well. At the Altar of the Horned God succeeded in creating an album that Aleister Crowley, had he been born a few generations later, could have created. 

Rating: 8/10

Tracklist:

  1. A Ka Dua
  2. Before the Flames of Undefiled Knowledge
  3. Prayer I
  4. Prayer II (Oh Glorias Pan)
  5. Perdition of Oneness
  6. Malediction
  7. A Circle of Swaying Leaves

Total Playing Time: 36:10

Click here to visit At the Altar of the Horned God’s Bandcamp

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