Pagan Altar - The Room Of Shadows

Pagan Altar - The Room Of Shadows

(CD/LP, Temple Of Mystery Records, 2017)

Since May 15, 2015, the Hooded Figures dressed in black stopped their softly chanting, the Sorcerer was left alone on his mountain throne, the Witch Queen ceased her laughing, and the Druids took the path back to the Otherworld (the realm existing beyond the reach of the physical senses, a.k.a. the place we go after we die); yes, our beloved epic voice, Terry Jones sadly passed away and left lots of unwritten magical stories orphan, waiting only the (our) dreams (of the believers) in order to get flesh and bones. Those who were lucky enough to experience a PAGAN ALTAR live (at least once), already know the greatness of this band and its unique way to channel themes of mysticism and the occult through the magical fusion of Heavy Metal and Proto-Doom onstage, so it goes beyond saying how grave Mr. Jones’ loss is, changing at the same time the status of PAGAN ALTAR to an inactive live band. If there is truly a way for us, the fans that is, to find a kind of consolation on the wake of such a loss, Alan Jones started redoing the music on “The Book Of Shadows” (which was originally planned to go out in 2014), and with the help of Andy Green and Diccon Harper, is now able to present to the world the final chapter of the rich PAGAN ALTAR legacy.

First of all, I’d like to underline that is impossible to listen to this album without your hair at the back of your neck standing up, even from the first time you’ll lay ears on it; it’s not only the realization that this album is not going to be played live ever by the original voice, but the fact that “The Book Of Shadows” consists of seven epic tracks, able to stand on their own as singles, making this album sound like a truly ‘best-of’ compilation. From the moment the opening track “Rising Of The Dead” hits the speakers with its eerie intro the “Judgement Of The Dead” way, you’ll be astonished by how beautifully old-school yet relevant this one sounds; the clear, powerful production does justice to every instrument, and especially to Alan Jones’ mournful riffing that gives the perfect assist to Terry’s storytelling, confident vocals. And despite the fact that the album opens with a classic Doomy PAGAN ALTAR epic, “The Portrait Of Dorian Gray” speeds things up a bit, proving that the UK band has still a sweet tooth for NWOBHM melodies, combined with Terry’s dark-themed tales / vocals. Sure, you’ve probably already known the song from the “Imperial Anthems No. 8” split EP with MIRROR OF DECEPTION (2011), but in this instance it sounds like a true delight, performed by all four fine gentlemen. Plus, it’s rightfully placed before “Danse Macabre” and its Psychedelic intro that focus more of the Folk-ier side of the band, and, of course, Terry’s unique ability to sing over such versatile riffs - a true diamond that will grow inside you stronger after every listening.

There is no doubt that the following “Dance Of The Vampires” will wake up some epic “The Cry Of The Banshee” memories the minute it will start caressing your ears, with the mid-tempo epic guitars and the trademark tempo-infused PAGAN ALTAR drumming breaks which are playing the role of the rhythmic anchor of the entire track, allowing at the same time Diccon’s basslines to breathe, while Terry’s shockingly singing the “to join in the dance of death” lyric line.

If there would ever be a possibility for me to have just one favorite PAGAN ALTAR song (yeah, right), after some thinking, that song would be “The Room Of Shadows”; this one possesses all the virtues I love in PAGAN ALTAR’s sound throughout the years - it has exquisitely haunting and storytelling vocals, it’s full of dynamics and galloping guitar flow, and there is almost a jamming feeling, besides its scattered melancholic guitar parts (strategically placed in the beginning and end of the song). To me, this song feels like having tea and biscuits with custard cream or jelly – it’s that much comforting and totally enjoyable as Terry’s vocals drop the curtain, bringing closure to one more haunting, foggy tale.

I said this after the first listening session of PAGAN ALTAR’s swansong album and I’m gonna say it again, now that the digital copy is playing for the 30th time, for the last week or so and after the dust has settled down; “The Room Of Shadows” seems like the album of the year (if not of the decade), even though there are some sweet releases out there already. Still, it feels difficult for anything else to surpass it, and not only because its release means the last time we’ll ever have the pleasure to listen to Terry Jones’ voice on new PAGAN ALTAR material. It’s a complete, granite-solid album, with strong songwriting, guitar work to-die-for and care to every detail, and it sure gathers all the necessary elements for everyone who would like to listen to a bunch of top-notch songs, consisted of a band’s pure devotion to its beloved music. Therefore, this makes “The Room Of Shadows” the perfect closure and monumental piece to PAGAN ALTAR’s recorded music history. I bet Sir Terry is happy.





01. Rising Of The Dead
02. The Portrait Of Dorian Gray
03. Danse Macabre
04. Dance Of The Vampires
05. The Room Of Shadows
06. The Ripper
07. After Forever


Terry Jones (R.I.P.) - Vocals
Alan Jones - Guitar
Diccon Harper - Bass
Andy Green - Drums