It seems like a thousand years
Since I let you go
In a world so full of greed I didn’t know
But now I’m on death’s door we’ll be together
And I’ll be with you then and after forever
– Pagan Altar, After Forever
The Room of Shadows brings one of the most remarkable underdog stories in heavy metal to a satisfying end. Released two years after singer Terry Jones’ passing, this album, like all preceding music from this band, is sure to appeal to lovers of finely-crafted guitar heavy rock and old metal. The beauty of Pagan Altar is not to be found in analysis but rather in letting this music of conventionally tasteful increments and embellishments wash over you like the first fumes of a newly opened bottle of bourbon. And if perchance you, dear reader, are open to that notion of guileless vulnerability, Pagan Altar will be your guide on journeys of rare mystery and magic.
That vulnerability I speak of is a two-directional dynamic between both artist and audience. A discussion I often have with a friend is how newer retro metal bands have their hearts in the right place and nail down old sounds with some conviction; and yet, for all that, when was the last time you ever heard a newer band break into the kind of dark ballad which was an unmissable part of the elder generation’s repertoire? The point here isn’t to debate the virtues or lack thereof of the ballad in metal, but rather to remark upon how unprepossessed older bands were of wearing their hearts on their sleeves, of revealing some element of their humanity.
Pagan Altar were of course one of those hoary bands, who only got a new lease on life in the twilight of their careers; and still, through that long stretch of inactivity and disillusion, they kept alive some flicker of that vulnerability, drastically changed though the world around them may have become. It is a quality not lost on the acute connoisseur of metal; he appreciates it and fiercely protects it for the most precious of treasures that it is. What is it that he fights the world for, what is it on account of which his conscience continues to throb like some restless cyst? Truth, what else? Ugly truth, inconvenient truth, the beautiful truth. Pagan Altar spoke it and we kindle it hereafter.