A Damnation's Stairway to the Altar of Failure


A brooding instrumental piano intro, overlaid with the sounds of dripping and people vaguely wailing […]
By Max Elias
January 14, 2021
Extirpation - A Damnation's Stairway to the Altar of Failure album cover

A brooding instrumental piano intro, overlaid with the sounds of dripping and people vaguely wailing in the background, starts off the new EXTIRPATION album directly inside the bowels of Hell itself. What follows is a cavalcade of ripping, melodic, and intense blackened thrash that would make Satan smile. The production is absolutely filthy and as dark as it could be, and the vocals sound like a demon with strep throat. Yet for all the chaos, there is order as well-and this is why I called their music 'melodic' earlier. For example, the breakdown of "Into Disease" features some very clear riffing, and tremolo picked melodies are woven throughout. There is a impressive range of moods and riff styles-even if that range is just 'insane-angry-slightly less angry' packed into the 2:56 long opener (proper opener, that is).

The evil is not restricted to high tempos, which the band proves on "Labyrinth of Empty Cage". The ominous octave use that defines the slower sections of the song drips with apprehension and terror, and provide a welcome foil to the frenetic buzzsaw assault of the rest of it. "(Inevitable) Sufference" strays deeper into the THRASH METAL side of EXTIRPATION's playing with its galloping percussion and the occasional SLAYER-ish power chord riff (think 'Black Magic'), although the guitars retain the melodic black metal character for the most part, with quick tremolo riffs and dark-sounding intervals. The vocals, while still wholly unintelligible, are sonically appropriate for this musical sphere. They are that of a frenzied, warped beast that somehow rose up against its master and now roams the earth in search of purpose, finding none.

There aren't really surprises on the album once you get halfway through it, although the riffing remains high-quality and the songs are very tightly constructed. Riffs like the one near the end of "Faith of the Parasite" will never fail to bring me joy. I also really like the otherworldly siren-like riff on "Stasis"-and speaking of "Stasis", the vocals feel clearer and more intentionally articulated on this song than any other, which is of course not to say that they are understandable. If they were, would it be BACK METAL? And "Soul Pact" is powerful and irresistibly headbanging, especially during the marching feel towards the end.

The album closes with a song in two parts (the title track, in fact). This might seem like it's an issue if the way you listen to music isn't by listening to the album in full, but each of the parts is long enough to stand on their own and not have to be listened to sequentially. Plus, if lyrical continuity is a concern, just remember that as well-suited to the music as the vocals are, I at least couldn't understand a word they're saying. Anyway: the riffs are as always varied and dynamic, and the rhythm section never wavers from its goal of swathing the listener in a miasma of chaos. The slightly slower riffs on "A Damnation's Stairway..." stand out to me more than the faster parts, as being more unique and in my opinion more creative. The song fades out a little bit before letting "...to the Altar of Failure" pick up the thread. Strong riffing and good chemistry between band members defines the closing track; the latter is particularly evident during the verses, where after each vocal line the band drops back a bit to let the guitar fill have maximum impact. As with the rest of the album, there is an abundance of high-pitched tremolo riffing, but it does not sound overdone or generic at all.

This was a fantastic album to listen to and a great example of how stereotyping a band before you hear them is wrong. I tend to find it cringy when a band uses overly 'brutal' pseudonyms instead of their names (Hellros, Magikk, etc.) and take it as a sign I probably won't enjoy them, but this was excellent. All the elements were there; quick and inventive riffing, pummeling and rhythmic drums, hair-splitting vocals, and attention to songwriting dynamics. I do wish that the production had been a little cleaner just to make it easier to pick out all the myriad riffs and fills that are going on in the music, but that isn't realistic for the style.

9 / 10

Almost Perfect








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"A Damnation's Stairway to the Altar of Failure" Track-listing:
  1. Awakening
  2. Into Disease
  3. Labyrinth of Empty Cages
  4. (Inevitable) Sufferance
  5. Faith of the Parasite
  6. Stasis
  7. Soulpact
  8. A Damnation's Stairway...
  9. ...to the Altar of Failure
Extirpation Lineup:

Darak - Bass, Vocals
Elia - Drums
Hellros - Guitars
Magikkk - Guitars

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