And God Created Satan to Blame for His Mistakes
Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
Now here’s a band that I haven’t thought about for a long time. There was a period during the mid to late '90s where I was quite partial to the first few albums from Dutch death metal act, Altar, but like so many bands over the years, my attention wandered and never returned.
Presented here is a remastered re-release of the band's 1992 demo, And God Created Satan to Blame for His Mistakes, with an additional six live tracks from a 1993 performance in Rotterdam.
When you consider the vintage of the material on offer, it's probably not too surprising that it can sound a little on the dated side. I would argue that it holds up rather well, but that could be explained by the fact that I'm quite familiar with the studio tracks, being that they appeared on the band's debut album, 1994’s Youth Against Christ. In any event, this demo and the tracks therein are definitely reflective of their time, and that might well be enough for many people to give this release a miss. Those who don't, however, will hear some pretty heavy and catchy early death metal that could quite possibly have slipped under their radar.
With their proclivity for overtly anti-Christian lyrics, it would be easy to paint Altar as the European answer to, or at least equivalent of, Deicide, but musically the two don't quite line up. Both exist under the larger death metal banner, but Altar go for a thrashier and groovier approach than either Deicide’s eponymous 1990 debut or their blisteringly heavy follow-up, 1992’s Legion did. In fact, while there are plenty of faster moments to be found across the four studio tracks, the band spends much of its time operating in a mid-pace, which is where they mine the bulk of their hooks and grooves.
Having not heard the demo’s original production, I can't really speak to the quality of this remaster other than to say that it's pretty clear and punchy, though there isn't much in the way of a satisfying thud from the bottom end. Considering the age of the recording and the general sound of the era, this isn't entirely surprising. The live tracks also sound pretty decent, clearly having come straight out of the mixing desk. It's not obvious to me how much tidying up has been done to that recording, but it's perfectly listenable in that rough, live recording kind of way.
Ultimately, I'm not too sure who the intended audience is for this re-release. I could be way off base in my recollections here, but I'm unaware of Altar making much of a splash on the wider international scene during their heyday, and while the material on this demo is undoubtedly solid, and maybe even pretty good at times, I'm struggling to imagine that there's a wealth of people out there that will be clamouring to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane if it was never paved in the first place.
To be honest, the cynic in me has seen on Metal Archives that the band became active again in 2014, so this might just be the simplest way for them to lay the groundwork for a new album or a return to the touring circuit. If that were to be the case, then this demo is an interesting choice to reissue, because I'd submit that Youth Against Christ would've been much easier to market simply because it has fared the passage of time better.
In any event, if you're familiar with Altar or have an interest in early '90s death metal, then you could do a lot worse than this demo. If neither of these things apply, then you'll probably want to look elsewhere.