Altar Stomper is a Finnish duo that plays death metal-based music. This is their debut demo, released on a one-sided DIY tape with awesome cover artwork.

The demo opens up with "Slither in Holy Paradise," which is a very pleasing intro of some hoarse drone-ambience, a simple acoustic guitar-riff, very dusty synths and other atmospheric elements. It's simple enough to remain memorable, and sets the mood right for the first actual track.

The first song is a death metal-tune that seems to drudge onwards on a weirdly slow and dragging pace for most of its five-minute length. The simple riffs bring out the band's oldschool thrash-influences and work as such, especially in the section with some vintage background synths. The song progresses really slowly and doesn't really take a hold of the listener at any point, which is a shame since it includes some really good ideas and elements. The song's fade-out ending, too, makes me think that this composition could've been taken further.

The following song, however, is a way more easily approachable one. It's much faster and catchier, and has a memorable chorus as well. The deep growled grunts suit this song well, whereas they were mostly drowned amidst the instruments in the opener. The song's mid-section is again slower and focuses on clean and extended guitar-notes, but returns back to the thrashing in the end - there's some really nice guitar solo wailing as well, although it's a bit too buried to really make an impact. The demo's last song is pretty similar to its predecessor style-wise; simple and thrashing with some atmospheric guitar-notes in its middle section.

I've listened to this demo enough to know most of it by memory, yet I'm still not quite sure what I think of it. The partly sloppy and lazy instumentation (or the feel of it due to the slightly dragging tempos) and damp soundscape does have its appeal, true. Yet on the other hand I feel that the songs would have a lot more force if the sounds were rougher and heavier and if the vocals had more commanding power. I'm also baffled by the demo's flow; the intro lasts for three minutes, then comes a five-minute song that drudges forward slowly, and then come two shorter and faster thrashing songs. I'm not quite sure which of these is the closest to the band's main expression - and I'm not sure if the two musicians know it either.

This tape is not bad, but nothing too memorable either. The band's style and sound is coated in dust and cobwebs, and as such leaves me waiting for the final punch. Altar Stomper's expression could be taken further into either more atmospheric and vintage direction, or into the realms of heavier death metal with a more ripping sound. I'll be looking forward to the duo's next release to see how they've evolved, but for now, I'm not expecting anything mind-blowing.

2 / 5