The expansive grasslands of the Canadian Prairies cover almost 700,000 square miles of western Canada, and consume much of the rural parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. This includes the city of Regina, where the blackened funeral doom band, Altars of Grief, resides. Their music is an homage to the prairielands which they call home, and the very winter that whips frigid winds through the arid plains finds its way into the band’s second full-length album, Iris.
Over eight tracks, the quartet melds the finer points of black and doom into a truly stirring composition. Many moments on the record calls to late-era Woods of Ypres (R.I.P. David Gold) like the middle third “Voices of Winter.” There are other moments that showcase a dichotomy throughout Iris. Take the early instances of “Desolation” or the title track, wherein subdued, doomed instrumental passages give way piercing shrieks rip through black metal tremolo and blast beats.
Meanwhile, tracks like “Child of Light” and “Broken Hymn” exude Iris’ most tempered and methodical death and funeral doom. In a holistic sense, this collection of songs culminates into a wonderful testament to sadness, aided by the talents of guest cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne (who has also contributed to Musk Ox, Woods of Ypres, The Visit, Thrawsunblat, and Leprous).
"The story of Iris is very much rooted in our prairie surroundings and deals with the struggles of addiction, sickness and religion," vocalist Damian Smith tells Noisey. "A father finds himself unable to connect with and care for his young daughter, Iris, who has fallen seriously ill. Spiraling deeper and deeper into his vices, and feeling rejected by Iris’ new found and unwavering faith, he gets into his car and decides to leave her behind. Somewhere along the icy road, he loses control of his vehicle and perishes. His purgatory is to watch helplessly as Iris slowly succumbs to her illness without him."
Certainly taking that narrative into account makes it that much more of a captivating album, but there are a lot more layers to peel back on Altars of Grief’s brand-new album. Get a head start by streaming Iris below, and preorder it from Hypnotic Dirge here.
Cody Davis is doomed on Twitter.