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Pagan Altar: The Room of Shadows

Pagan Altar are one of the original bands of the NWOBHM scene who debuted back in the late '70s and wrote plenty of original material but never actually released an official album until the late '90s. After two strong reunion albums in 2006 and 2006, the band began work on their third release but that was cut short by the death of lead vocalist Terry Jones due to cancer. Terry's son Alan, who is also the guitarist, decided to finish up the album and re-name it The Room of Shadows, and the final product, Terry's last recorded vocal performance, is soon to be available via Temple of Mystery Records.

For an album that was basically written 13 years ago, The Room of Shadows sounds pretty fresh while still dipping back into that classic late '70s/early '80s metal & doom style. Closer in spirit to vintage Witchfinder General, Black Sabbath, and perhaps a bit of Candlemass, with a touch of Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, and Jethro Tull thrown in for good measure, Pagan Altar owe perhaps more to the 'proto-metal' sound than other, more famous acts of the NWOBHM scene, who embraced punk and more speed driven arrangements. Tunes such as "Rising of the Dead" and "The Portrait of Dorian Gray" show off the bands doom laden tendencies, while the excellent "Danse Macabre" is pure '70s hard rock majesty, tossed with plenty of guitar heroics and intricate musical passages. "Dance of the Vampires" combines the best of those worlds, the riffs huge, the guitar solos soaring, and Terry's unique vocals telling the horror tinged lyrical tale. For some, his vocal style might be a hit or miss, as he comes across a bit like Mark Shelton of Manilla Road, high pitched but somewhat nasally, though for uniqueness factor alone, he's hard to ignore. Pagan Altar's folk-meets-prog leanings come out in full force on the glorious title track, and it's here where the Jethro Tull comparisons can be heard, as lush acoustic guitars, sedate percussion, and Jones' emotional vocals take center stage before the pace picks up and the heavy rock guitars & drums kick in. It's prog once again on "The Ripper" (no, not a Judas Priest cover), a 10+ minute epic that slowly builds in intensity and contains many layers, chock full of exquisite guitar work and atmosphere. The Room of Shadows ends with the mystical "After Forever", a brief track brimming with folk tones, as father & son go at it alone, vocals and majestic guitar taking the listener out on a tranquil note.

In all likelihood, The Room of Shadows will be the final release from Pagan Altar, and if so, the band has gone out on a high note, the album also a fitting tribute to the late founder Terry Jones. Those new to the band would be advised to also check out their two other fine releases, Lords of Hypocrisy and Mythical and Magical, as well as the demo recordings Volume 1 (Judgement of the Dead) .

Track Listing
01 Rising Of The Dead
02 The Portrait of Dorian Gray
03 Danse Macabre
04 Dance of the Vampires
05 The Room of Shadows
06 The Ripper
07 After Forever

Added: August 12th 2017
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 2044
Language: english

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