The Fall Of Altrusia
It’s hard to get a bead on a band that not only takes its name from ’70s stoner-favorite Land Of The Lost, but that also creates an entire concept album based on the show. Milwaukee’s Sleestak further complicates matters by failing to adhere to the tired-and-true, doom-and-gloom metal template it so clearly adores. But confounded expectations are what make the group’s The Fail Of Altrusia so enjoyable; the album takes just as many cues from Pink Floyd and Rush as it does from sludge metal.
“Fun” wouldn’t be the correct word to describe Sleestak’s take on the genre—this is serious, irony-free stuff—but it’s hard not to get a kick out of an album that separates its songs into “chapters.” (Example: “Chapter 7—Pakuni Shaman Chant Of The Altrusian Moth.”) “In The Beginning” kicks things off in an appropriately moody way, and spends nearly two minutes wallowing in a reverb-drenched riff before shifting into a full-on sonic assault. Not that the blast of energy lasts long—moments later, the band unexpectedly downshifts into a few melodic, positively idyllic bars. Those hairpin turns continue for the duration of Altrusia. The 17-minute (!) “The Marshall Prophecy” gets off to a soothing start before suddenly kicking into a glorious space-rock jam, and the final minutes of “The Prophecy Of The Great Sleep” end in a stomp-happy rave-up. Throughout, guitarist-vocalist Matt Schmitz wholeheartedly subscribes to the throat-shredding school of death metal, but retains enough focus and clarity to keep the vocals surprisingly accessible. The band’s musical chops are serviceable, though any guitar-hero theatrics would certainly break the album’s dirge-like mood.
The Fall Of Altrusia is a throwback in more ways than one: It’s an album in the grand sense of the word. Its “chapter breaks” seem almost arbitrary, as each song transitions seamlessly into the next. Judged track by track, Altrusia is a hopeless jumble; taken as a nearly hour-long whole, it’s a worthwhile ride. Leave it to a band named after a bug-eyed rubber monster to remind us that it’s not the destination, but rather the gloomy journey that matters.