Originally written by Matt Longo
As I imported Gastrike into iTunes, the genre came up as “Viking Doom Metal”, when their last album The End registers as “Epic Viking Doom Metal”… so what does this mean for Ereb Altor? It’s unlike me to deliberately add “Epic” (of all things) into the ‘Genre’ category, though I have been known to correct and clarify ID3 tags for a number of reasons. Whatever — I think it came that way, and if that’s the case, does its omission make the band any less grand in scope or execution this time around?
Maybe — they have shaved a few minutes off their total album lengths over the past three releases. But it’s not all about length; you gotta work with what you’ve got. Six is the magic number in terms of minutes (give or take) and there is plenty of room to move in that time. When they have more space to fully sprawl out, as in their chilling centerpiece “The Mistress of Wisdom”, the full beckoning effect is felt, brimming with blood and fire and death.
In terms of subject and style, this is very similar to mid-period Bathory, only with more advanced production. Both pay homage to Swedish ancestry, with the bleak, blackened echo of vocalist Ragnar leading the assault here. You may also recognize him as Daniel Bryntse from Isole — who delve even further into doom — but more often, Ereb Altor strays into death metal territory with a sincere radiating ferocity. Sharing similar duties with Ragnar is Mats, who also performs vocals, guitar, bass, and keyboards. (He likewise plays in Isole, as Crister Olsson.) Since both dudes handle the same instruments, I’m not exactly sure whom to credit where, but I will say that they nicely juxtapose the clean chants against rent throats.
Drumming duties were also shared between the two men, until they brought on new skinsman Tord for Gastrike. The dude can ably pound or practice restraint, even with less dynamic tracks like opener “A Gathering of Witches”. (A good track; just overshadowed by what follows.) “Dance of Darkness” really started to catch my attention when the soaring battle cries began to blend midway, following an acoustic break. But there’s real magic in “Dispellation” — its eerie intro gives way to an erratic-yet-engaging guitar explosion, and more prominent chants right up to the conclusion.
Keep your ears open for those synths; the additional layer is so subtle, yet intrinsic to the overall sound, with virtually nil cheese factor. They nail the intros, too. The baleful screech that calls out to we, the wary listener-travelers, in “I Djupet Så Svart” still gives me goosebumps.
There is more brutally charred folk found in these 45 minutes than in your average ruthless 10th-century pillaging crusade. And said devastation spread to surrounding countries; so you can look west to Norway for Windir or south to Germany for Falkenbach for like-minded souls, but the surge started in Sweden, and as aforementioned, the blood of Bathory runs thick in the veins of Ereb Altor. If Quorthon showed us anything, it was the importance of affect and how to create proper mood with the tools at hand; because you cannot polish a turd, but you can uncover diamonds in the rough. Gastrike shows that Ereb Altor is willing to push their own boundaries, but they still move mostly within the blueprint laid out by their most direct Metal lineage in Bathory for their strongest and best-balanced attack.