Blood Upon the Altar started life as a raw, confrontational demo recording of blackened thrash by the Canadian proto-black metal outfit Blasphemy. Years (and many demos, bootlegs and two full-lengths) later, a remastered “album” version is being released by Nuclear War Now! and Ross Bay Cult productions.
While the predominantly death/grind sound may scare off more “current”, post-black listeners, long-time black metal kvltists will easily recognise the inspiration behind some of the more violent black metal acts of today, including Archgoat or Impaled Nazarene. The intense riffing, blastbeat-driven core on tracks like “Demoniac” are overlaid on a thick, syrupy bass groove that recalls early Beherit, too. This funereal low end is a palpable presence throughout the recording, and a welcome throwback to the lo-fi original demo: James Plotkin’s remastering may have cleaned up the original, but thankfully hasn’t detracted in any way from its primitive charm.
Check out this original “Blood Upon the Altar” demo from 1989.
The occasional Slayer-esque lead (“Weltering in Blood” and “Nocturnal Slayer” being prime examples) is to be expected, given the time frame of the initial release , but these add to the nostalgic charm of the record, even though ripping, fast leads became less and less of a staple in black metal. Conversely, the synth-organ intro and sampled explosion conclusion on “Blasphemous Attack” are prophetic in nature, foretelling a time when the incorporation of electronics and alternative instrumentation into more “traditional” metal compositions would become standard practice.
Something else that has to be noted as far as Blasphemy’s forward-thinking is concerned, is the political role Caller of Storms (AKA guitarist Geoff Drakes) inadvertently plays in the band. All too often, black metal is associated with racial purity, fascism and intolerance, so it begs the question whether any of these offending artists even knew that a black man was responsible for the searing inferno of riffs that, in the words of black metal journalist and author Dayal Patterson, “championed utter barbarity in sound and lifestyle”.
While blackened death metal nowadays is far removed from the Blood Upon the Altar template , with artists like Behemoth and Belphegor often opting for atmosphere over brutality, the contribution Blasphemy made is undeniable, often being listed alongside the likes of Venom, Von, Hellhammer and Sarcofago as examples of first-wave black metal that did not arise from the Scandinavian wilderness. As long as bestial, angry songs like “Ritual” and “Blasphemous Attack” exist, Blasphemy will always be a relevant contributor to the genre, and Blood Upon the Altar will always be a classic.
Starting with the “Ross Bay Intro”, you can check out the full album here.
Blood Upon the Altar Track Listing:
01. Ross Bay Intro
02. War Command
04. Weltering in Blood
06. Nocturnal Slayer
08. Blasphemous Attack
Run Time: 21:09
Release Date: September 10, 2018
Record Label: Nuclear War Now! / Ross Bay Cult
01. Barely three years after Reign in Blood and a year after South of Heaven.
02. Even Deicide’s latest release is a slower, more temperate affair than in days past.