Following the peak of John Gelso’s manic laughter melodic sensibility on Thy Kingdom Cum, Profanatica entered artistic decline by releasing the excuse-to-tour Curling Flame of Blasphemy where the riffs were merely those of Disgusting Blasphemy Against God in a lull given a slight boost in populist consonance for the purpose of pleasing crowds. The G.G. Allin of black metal Paul Ledney sounded tired and uninspired which was reflected by the shark-jumping biker bar promotional pictures which were included in the booklet of the album. With Altar of the Virgin Whore we find Profanatica once again selling an excuse to tour only this time it is said plainly.
To emulate their live sound poor choices were made by adding unnecessary reverb to the drum kit and digitally re-amping the guitars. These decisions led to the worst Profanatica have sounded on the noise end of the signal in their entire career. The band has always been plagued by bizarre and questionable production, tone choice and mixing but here there is no inherent charm to anchor sentiment. One can forgive the strained vocals of age and near absence of distinct bass in the morass created by poor mixing. Nothing here is unlistenable, merely a touch too synthetic and badly isolated. It is well worth expressing disappointment in the production as there is nothing tacitly pleasing in a sense of contact with a grotesque object.
The departure of Gelso presented Paul Ledney with an opportunity for another perspective on the sound that he created. After all how long can one laugh at the same joke? This changed is most evident by the inclusion of three re-interpretations of Gelso pieces which are played differently and perhaps in a superior manner than the man who wrote them. The converse occurred on the Sickened By Holy Host EP where the Gelso manifestations were vastly superior to the archaic forms presented in its first half. Instead of crafting songs which are intended to laugh at the death of God, Altar of the Virgin Whore mines seminal memes of its demo period and refines them via the grindcore approach at two thirds the pace if not less. Whereas Blasphemy took the Repulsion sound and closed the gap between chords to emphasize darkness, Profanatica here widen it to give space for the seminal idiosyncratic rhythms and vocals to hurl derisive arrows at the other shore and murder its inhabitants.
Operating in this mode the band is arguably at its most vital then as now. The pulsating shifting physical madness of their music was always a counterpoise to the Norwegian sound — to which the American continent was always opposed — which is marked by a distinctly cerebral sound whereas the metal genre seems to operate in the regions of the upper shoulder. Rock music is felt in the lower spine and exemplified by the gyration of hips whereas the metalhead BANGS HIS FUCKING HEAD and the physically inclined trend more towards lifting as the primary physical manifestation of essence than the thin gaunt rockist eccentric who is communal than Conan in his orientation. It is no coincidence that decidedly atmospheric, entrancing, metaphysical releases by Burzum and Darkthrone are treated as the final evolution of metal music by those with a spiritual orientation which interpret the melody as the principle communication of the music and therefore favoring the higher frequency riffs as divine voices.
Profanatica, especially on its three previous studio albums, has always emphasized the low reverberations of matter in the grand tradition of heavy metal going back to Sabbath. Produced “correctly” per Fenriz, metal music places the guitar at the periphery of the stereo and seats drums vocals and bass in the center and at the loudest. This was exaggerated on Disgusting Blasphemies Against God which is a companion piece to the brilliant Kembatinan Premaster released under the Havohej brand. This ethos was maintained and exaggerated by Profanatica further marking not just their conservative approach to making music but also their complete commitment to blasphemy not just of the virgin lamb but sodomy of the sacred assholes of a genre they helped define by advancing the body ahead of the ego to the chagrin of all that was achieved by the North.
Altar of the Virgin Whore is Profanatica playing Profanatica which is something deserving of criticism and yet it is also endearing in its blind and idiotic assertion of internal impetus. This is wholly singular and wholly individual despite its flaws, its near replicant nature, and its total lack of striving towards higher attainments. Another incarnation of an ancestral heritage dating back to a golden age of the apocalyptic weltanschauung which all metal sought to express and give meaning to via the non-rational form of the arts. This is the triumph of the lower against the higher, the musical manifestation of senility and death which marks the terminal decline of a culture, such as heavy metal, that has exhausted every possible symbolic perspective on the impending collapse of the world, living out a glorious death but also foregone conclusion now. There are no new riffs here just another generation of chromatic genotypes finding variations via phenotypic environmental pressures in the studio and on the road; a musical “fact of the matter” existence lurching onward to extinction post-exhaustion. What then is the difference between its lamentable forebear? Well, this birthing has a hunger to it as it was served burned food.
Profanatica is simply too stupid to have quit at its high point; had that happened, we would not have Profanatitas. It is in the innocent naivete of an organism grasping an object, flailing its limbs and hitting itself in the head in acts of pure irrational self-exertion that the charm of Altar of the Virgin Whore is found. It is this same point of valuation which esteems the microscopic adaptions to changing circumstance that differentiate the quality between generations of the Profanatica genus. What then are high points for this band if not hilarious and absurd accidents?