Boris and Sunn0))): their fan bases seem to overlap on opinions so often that it’s a shame they’ve not collaborated before this. So who comes out sounding more apparent than the other?
Well, I guess it depends on who you ask, but the record is definitely reminiscent of both groups sounds. “Etna” begins the album with an abrasive lo-fi drone, and the end hears Atsuo slowly destroying his drums as he is so well known for (a là Amplifier Worship). The second track, “N.L.T.” sees more influence from Sunn, I think, and seems to be the slowing down of the previous track. With “The Sinking Belle (Blue Sheep),” it’s all Boris–well, maybe if Wata was on vocals more often–and is probably the black sheep (hah!) of the lot. This track is as slow as the rest, but is very different in that it is vocalized by (gasp) Jesse Sykes, and holds no drone, but instead opts to give us a very waltz-like trance of just a few guitar chords and piano arpeggios. “Akuma No Kuma” and “Fried Eagle Swamp” really pick things up again (so much so that they seem to put the previous track out of place) and dive back into what we think of when we think of these two groups.
More of Atsuo’s drumming takes the spotlight on the former track, and the latter has Sunn taking things over again, in a way they did with their set of White recordings.
The last track, “Blood Swamp”, is the longest of all (nearly fifteen minutes), and probably the best. While it’s more Sunn than Boris (and I do dislike Sunn on most occasions), it’s exactly what my mind creates when I think of these two artists playing side by side. It’s dark, incredibly slow, menacing–and all other five dollar adjectives you could apply to both these masters of sludge. While Altar is not as good as it could have been, it’s still very good when it does work, and is a must have for any fan of either group (or any of the ten plus other musicians who helped create it).