Alongside Witchfinder General, Pagan Altar were one of the first of the NWOBHM bands back in the late '70s to incorporate doom into their raging heavy metal attack, but the bands back catalog has sadly been very hard to get over the years. Thankfully, Temple of Mystery has come to the rescue, re-issuing and remastering the bands discography for legions of metal fans to enjoy, and here we have their 1982 debut Judgement of the Dead, which originally was never released until decades later.
Led by their late vocalist Terry Jones, who died of cancer in 2015, the rest of the band was comprised of guitarist Alan Jones, bassist Trevor Protch, and John Mizrahi on drums. Fans of classic Black Sabbath as well as Pentagram will certainly enjoy the crushing riffs and sizzling lead guitar work on opening cut "Pagan Altar", a lengthy slice of doom mixed with classic hard rock elements, which leads into the more upbeat "In the Wake of Armadeus". The title track slows things down a bit and goes into more epic, doom laden directions, images of Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and early Rainbow creeping into the music. Fantastic stuff. "The Black Mass" completely obliterates everything in its path, complete with some herculean riffs courtesy of Alan Jones and Mizrahi's mighty drum blasting. Terry's vocals throughout the album are quite unique- he has a high pitched, somewhat nasally delivery that might be a 'love it or hate it' thing with some listeners, but I think he fits the music just fine. "Night Rider" is classic NWOBHM, and features a wealth of stinging lead guitar work, while "The Dance of the Banshee" shows off Alan's deft acoustic guitar skills in a quick little instrumental setting. Judgement of the Dead closes with the near 9-minute "Reincarnation", a melancholy slow builder that starts off with some folk & prog textures before the doomy riffs come into play mixed with plenty of majestic lead guitar lines.
Though Pagan Altar might not be a household name for some of you doom fans, with these new reissues from Temple of Mystery, there's absolutely no reason not to investigate them now. The surviving members of the band are currently out on tour along with Magic Circle's vocalist Brendan Radigan, bringing their classic heavy music to audience's worldwide. Don't miss 'em!
01 Pagan Altar 7:25
02 In the Wake of Armadeus 4:16
03 Judgement of the Dead 7:52
04 The Black Mass 5:22
05 Night Rider 4:13
06 The Dance of the Banshee 1:37
07 Reincarnation 8:47