Staring into the Abyss: A Review of Bolgia’s Altars

Noise and ambience are central ingredients in music, and always have been. Various amounts of dissonance found in even classical, orchestral pieces owes its foundations to noise as a musical concept. One can argue that music really is just organized sound – and what is noise exactly? It’s a sound of unpleasant or disturbing nature. Heavy metal is a genre that often comes across as unpleasant or disturbing. Make the connection for yourselves.

On that same note, ambience is a musical backbone – the amorphous plain which sound arrangements can be built. Take any one of your favorite songs and try to listen to the space between the notes. Listen to the feedback on a punk record, the hiss on a black metal record, the rumbling sort of tangible silence in an old Cannibal Corpse album. So why should music that focuses on ambience and noise be so misunderstood? Musical projects like Bolgia from Windsor, Connecticut make noise and ambience the focus of the music, and the results are often transcendental.

Altars is an odyssey without words, carrying the listener through various sound exhibits that deal in what I can only interpret as spiritual deprivation. The message is unclear and the focal point is foggy, which adds to the pervading creepiness of being guided along a dark chasm that leads nowhere. Doom metal, dark ambient, power electronics, and horror film soundtrack snippets entertain as we fall slowly through the vacuum of a void, tugged by the thin gravity of our eventual death. As you might have guessed, this isn’t a joyous and easy listen.

I personally enjoy the quieter moments on Altars. While the doom metal riffs are decent, I think the distortion creates a sense of claustrophobia that fights the general feeling of dread and loneliness that comes through in the quiet. Ethereal synth, haunting choirs, and distant roars of grinding machines express such a sense of emptiness. It’s like I’m floating in a purgatorial darkness, the plasmatic leftovers of my soul left to slowly wither in the broken echoes of my previous life. Whoa, man. Heavy…

I’m impressed with what this project managed to conjure up. Fans of Lustmord, Sunn O))), The Body, Whitehouse, and Nurse With Wound would certainly take a liking to this venture into what Bolgia expresses as “visceral sounds of suffering.”

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