Released: 2014, Self-released
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
The first full length from Ontario quartet Idol of Fear kind of snuck under the radar at the end of last year, but better late than never – especially since this is one debut that will make you sit up and take notice. Eventually, anyway.
All Sights Affixed, Ablaze is a bit of a tough album to pin down, and I mean that in a good way. The band seem intent on avoiding the obvious in their sound, even though at its core it tiptoes along the death and black metal dividing line. But they bring progressive, traditional and psychedelic elements to the table in the process, recalling vintage Opeth, Nachtmystium or Enslaved, and incorporate it smartly, with a deft, subtle hand.
All Sights is raw, yet expansive and deceptively complex thanks to the band's deliberate, unhurried manner. Though the album opens with the muscular “Vanquish,” the title track, “Circle of Vortices,” “It Demands” and “It Militates” amble along to the gritty licks and understated forays of Austin Myers and Dave Bach and Myers' rasping vocals, with drummer Doug Belcourt only occasionally amping up the pace.
That's not to say it's boring. Anything but. There's a depth, finesse and chilly ambiance here that you often won't find amid the usual blast-beat/double-bass fueled stampedes and cluster-bomb salvos of guitar. And even when Belcourt does break into an extended double-bass gallop, as on “Morningstar,” the riffing is crisp, simple and restrained, creating a tense undercurrent, which is something that comes and goes throughout.
”It Tyrannizes,” the third part of a triptych begun by “It Demands” and “It Militates,” is the most breathlessly adventurous track here, with some jarring complexity and abrupt mood swings that provide a stark contrast to the controlled dynamics of the rest of the album. The aggressive start boasts some truly menacing hooks that dissipate in a jangle of acoustic guitar, subtle strings and mournful moaning before launching into a piercing hail of black metal tremolo at triple time.
But it’s nicely placed toward the end and makes for a strategic buildup for the more reserved finale, the post-rockish instrumental “Carrion,” to send the album off on a somber – if rather shrill – note and reinforce the overall mood.
All Sights Affixed, Ablaze is a well-conceived and mindfully executed debut from a band who sound a lot more seasoned than their three years together and one previous demo – with material that is represented here – might lead you to believe. Which is always a nice surprise.