"Absolute Purity" (Hammerheart America; 2001)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Once you get over the shock that Erik Rutan isn’t playing brutal death metal with Alas it’s quite easy to sit back and enjoy what Alas has to offer. In a way, Alas reminds me of the kind of switcheroo that the late, great Chuck Schuldiner was able to do in making the transition from Death to Control Denied.

Even though Erik Rutan gets all the credit for writing the material on Alas’ “Absolute Purity” it’s not safe to assume that Alas is Erik Rutan and a bunch of hired hands. “Absolute Purity” has a very unique, band-like approach to it that never makes it seem derivative of anything.

The songs, for the most part, are concise and to the point – at least in terms of length. The music contained within is anything but average. The band combines atmospherics and primal, tribal energy on “Endlessly Searching” that gives Alas a foothold on originality. Most tracks feature an interplay of guitar, bass, and drums that makes each listen equally rewarding as new facets of the song’s arrangements reveal themselves in slow, deliberate ways. Not quite progressive, but certainly challenging to write, record, and listen to. Rutan even plays the keyboards to great effect – it’s amazing how the simplest of keyboard parts can add many dimensions to a song.

Martina Hornbacher’s operatic vocals fit quite nicely with the melodic nature of the music even if she’s not the greatest singer out there. For those of you interested in a reference point, Martina sounds more like Brave’s Michelle Loose rather than some of the other better-known female vocalists (Anneke van Giersbergen, Cristina Scabbia, Liv Kristine Espanaes). Rutan’s guitar work and keyboard embellishments are phenomenal, as you might expect, even if it isn’t brutal death metal. The rhythm team of Hornick and Davis are adept and versatile in employing different rhythms and techniques demanding by the songs.

“Absolute Purity” was produced by Erik Rutan (Morbid Angel, Hate Eternal, Krisiun).

Alas: Martina Hornbacher Astner on vocals, Erik Rutan on all guitars and keyboards, Scott Hornick on bass, and Howard Davis on drums.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Revised: 02 Oct 2023 21:56:12 -0400.