Enter Finnish quartet Altar Of Betelgeuze and their green smoke filled approach to the genre. Their new album 'Among The Ruins' is saving the genre for me, blending the harsh and abrasive nature of death metal with the monolithic riff capacity of doom and stoner rock. As if that is not varied enough, they throw in some clean vocals and even some psychedelic guitar solos. It's not often that bands like Black Sabbath & Electric Wizard come to mind while listening to a death metal album, but it sure is pretty damn bloody awesome.
Although opener 'The Offering' is a strong and immersive piece of music, follower 'Sledge Of Stones' is an absolute masterpiece. Somehow, Altar Of Betelgeuze managed to add the groove of bands like Entombed and Dismember to the thick sound of the bands I mentioned in the previous paragraph. At some point even Queens Of The Stone Age come to mind, along with some of their stoner rock colleagues. 'New Dawn' is another favorite, but more a vintage doom metal track than a death metal tune.
Another absolute highlight its 'Absence Of Light', a slow but brutal steamroller of a song, one that will have you on your knees in no time. There is a tiny bit Amorphis in here, enhanced with all of the above. Obviously, the majority of metal fans will classify this album as doom metal and I can't disagree with that. The overall tempo is quite slow. The riffs are almost touchable. The clean vocals remind me of the early days of the doom genre.
Basically, perhaps you can simplify classification by saying that this is "Conan with grunts" but that would be too easy. Fact remains that this is a well-written, well-thought-out and original album that definitely deserves a spot in your collection. So who to recommend it to? Well, doom fans of course. They will adore this thing, no doubt about that. Death metal fans will have to open their mind a bit, but once bitten, Altar Of Betelgeuze could easily become your favorites.