Released: 2001, Hammerheart America
Reviewer: Nathan Robinson
I have been waiting for this damn album since the split Alas/Hate Eternal demo of 1997. ABSOLUTE PURITY was no doubt my second most-anticipated album of 2001 (my first being the forthcoming guaranteed masterpiece INTERCEPTING FIST from Dim Mak). And unless you just simply cannot handle female vocals (in which case you need to wake up) you simply cannot pass up this album without checking it out first. Why? Because it is absolutely awesome, and I have heard nothing else like it, making it something new and unique. And with no new worthwhile territory being explored within the realms of metal, this is what everyone needs.
Of course the big selling point of Alas is guitarist Erik Rutan. Having played with Ripping Corpse and Morbid Angel, next to a couple of metal’s most-innovative guitarists Shaune Kelley and Trey Azagthoth, you can bet your ass Erik can play as well as the elite. He has already proven himself, not only with the aforementioned bands, but also with his downright obliterating Hate Eternal album CONQUERING THE THRONE. So you can be assured his playing in Alas is just as impressive. Of course you can tell it’s him. He’s just got that style of his own. But throw in a greater degree of melody and harmonies and you’ve got a welcome little twist on what you’re used to hearing from Erik.
This album turned out exactly the way it should have. The guitar playing is well-rounded. It’s heavy, has great acrobatics, uplifting melodies, but also retains the aggression and doominess that has been a part of Erik’s playing for years. And thankfully Erik has tracked the guitars more than once to give the album the full sound it deserves. And I love music with contrasts. When Erik plays fast and aggressively while drummer Howard Davis plays a midpaced beat, it just sucks me in. Add to that a heavenly operatic female voice and I am totally convinced that Alas rules. The perfect example of these contrasts is “Silencing the Sorrow”. Can you get any more crushing than this song? I don’t think so. And that jazzy cymbal work just adds even more flair. Don’t expect some wimpy, happy, flowery album here. There is plenty of doom and darkness here. For crying out loud, there are even double bass parts during the vocals. That alone should assure you this album is not something to listen to while taking a stroll through the rose garden.
What else is perfect about this album? How about the keyboards? I knew this album would be great from day one, but my only worry was the keyboards. Erik had them on the demo, and they were very low-key (no pun intended). And I had hoped he would keep them that way. He did. They’re there, but they’re not as prominent as the rest of the band. Keyboards are used mainly as background atmosphere in parts. Thanks Erik! What else…the production. Erik’s work on this album is an improvement over the Hate Eternal album. Whereas CONQUERING THE THRONE sounded rather muddy, ABSOLUTE PURITY sounds fantastic. Every instrument has a nice clean sound, with good separation. The bass guitar could be a little more prominent perhaps, but I can still hear it. Another thing that makes this album perfect is vocalist Martina Astner. I had thought original vocalist Tracey Beam did a fine job on the demo, and I was very curious to see how Erik would replace her. Once I discovered who his replacement was, I knew he had made a great decision. Martina has performed with Therion, and although I can’t name any albums she’s sung on, I know Therion has great taste when it comes to female vocalists. Martina’s performance with Alas, simply put, is astounding. What else can I say? Only this: I admire the fact that she kept the vocal melodies the same for the four songs that originally appeared on the ’97 demo.
You would be a fool to pass this one up. Do your ears and mind a favor and get this as soon as possible. Check out the band’s website at http://www.hateeternal.com/alas/
And Erik, please don’t let another four years go by without another Alas album!