Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
There is no denying the fact that the arrival of the internet age and its ongoing evolution and expansion affords users possibilities not dreamed of previously.
The accessibility to others, musicians or otherwise, and the aspect of sharing through the exchange of ideas can be quite inspirational. To be honest, I am not aware of any of this is applicable to the subjects of this review or if this was how things played out or not. With that said, here’s the rough edges of what I do know: this band began in the year 2013, in the Holy Land of Jerusalem, Israel, and were then known simply as Altalena.
After releasing a single to the public, two of the four band members soon left and things entered a prolonged state of inactivity. Fast forward a couple of years to when the remaining duo, Sergey Engel (guitar, bass) and Nata (vocals), learned about the existence of another outfit named Altalena. Feeling the creative muse swelling within their minds once again, they felt a name alteration was called for and thus, GHOST OF ALTALENA was born.
The band would go through several lineups, with Sergey and Nata remaining the constants. In April 2019, GHOST OF ALTALENA released their first album, ‘Death, Doom And Lollipops‘, and have returned one year later with its follow-up. Entitled ‘Out Of Time‘, the album marks an increase in the amount of “they”, as it relates to the number of musicians in the band. We find Sergey and Nata now joined by none other than drummer Kevin Hartnell. Name sound familiar? It should, Kevin is known for being one-half of heavyweights THAL, as well as a presence in the bands wytCHord and Elektrik Warfare.
If your interest is getting piqued, yet you are unfamiliar with GHOST OF ALTALENA and want to know more, well, that’s why we’re here, right? The band is one rooted in progressive metal, but there are serious nods to experimental elements and eclectic extremities. What all fit within those is up for debate, but here, in my opinion, it includes death metal, doom, psychedelia, and some alternative rock. That latter audio trait is established right from the start, as the opening song, “Colossus“, has nuances reminiscent of Alice In Chains.
Those nuances come encased within a transport containing passages of muddy sludge offset by others of atmospheric headiness. There is intriguingly diverse modes of vocals, too, with AIC-ish sounding parts, plus guttural utterances and hazy ethereal ones. This intro track will come to stand out more as more of the album passes. Believe me, there is plenty of mind-warping music yet to be explored. For instance, the rather Gorefest-ish, brick-thick density of “Castrating Cats”, a most chunky chuggernaut with some wacky portions throughout.
Truth is, the wacky factor – as I am calling it for this album – occasionally teeters on the red line, where there’s an abundance of oddly enhanced moments. They come in such shapes as the song “Sleep“, where lumbering slumber-time-meets-country-western and they ride the range together to the Jim Rose Circus. Perhaps you prefer something more from the wheelhouse where Primus or Praxis influence the speedy, funk-pop prowess of “Last Day“. Or where Mike Patton and Mr. Bungle would beam with pride upon hearing the scat-a-tat-tat vocals and bouncy, flamenco flavored throb of “Dratuti“.
Though a case could be made for nearly every moment of this record being a stand-out for one reason or another, I have my own stand-out numbers I particularly dig. They begin with “Money” (but then again, what in life doesn’t?), a fast-paced transmission that quickly finds itself bouncing off the walls before squealing guitar solos, mid-tempo thrash rhythms, and broken-throated, belched vocals drive it home.
One of the most ideal representations of the genre-warping distortions delivered by GHOST OF ALTALENA is the aural hallucination, “Drone Tail“. Hovering in doom mode at first, the landscape is surveyed with pulses of atmospherically tranquil waves prior to voice-based sonar. It is applied in an aggressively screamed, effect-enriched injection, an isolated one at that, with no more to come in the remaining four-plus minutes.
“This is the operator… Satan calling… please hold on.” Yes, that’s right, it is “A Call From Hell” that begins with an ominous surge in the music. You can almost feel an intent to menace in the Mastodon-like forward march getting the song underway. Soon enough, the Staley / Cantrell toning of the vocals reprises, though it will share the mic with alternating deliveries of throat-wrenched ones and one sounding similar to Devin Townsend or G//Z/R’s Clark Brown.
The constant stylistic shifting of this album’s music, its morphing through myriad genres and types, will yield a surprise or two still yet. One of the best highlights arrives with the stunning title track, “Out Of Time“, a mostly melodic stroll through halcyon hallways. Nostalgic reminiscing occupies the lyrical theme, with mostly clean and upbeat vocals that suit things well. Like the title implies, we will soon enough find ourselves in that place, shit out of luck, and… out of time. The latter winds down similarly to a wristwatch, diminishing and dwindling, ebbing away slowly as children sing us out.
“Last Five Minutes” is exactly that. The song-formatted last five minutes of this album is a lysergic-laced lullaby of exploratory noise manipulations. You will find it preceded by the stringently stripped-down, minstrel type track, “The Willow Tree“, and together, they make one feel their way out of this album. After all, this is ‘Out Of Time‘, you know, a most phenomenal, unique work of expressionist artistry.
Sure, it is not going to be for everyone, for not everyone possesses the refined palate needed to consume this with unfiltered appreciation. Dynamic and vigorously textural thanks to the outside-the-box creativity and talent of GHOST OF ALTALENA. Stream ‘Out Of Time‘ in this review; it is out now from Overlook Hotel Records with further streaming and purchase available [HERE].