Pleasure Forever could have fallen prey to the infamous sophomore slump, allowing Alter
to slide into lazy mediocrity under the ironically ominous Sub Pop roster release number of "SP666". However, superstitions and typical patterns of depreciation have been most cleverly avoided here, as Alter
proves to be far too conspicuously dark and fabulous to be categorized by any prototypical assumptions regarding the customary follow-up record.
Hardening and streamlining the mood and sound of their debut album, Alter takes the band's stylistic elemental undercurrents and poetic melodies and drives them off a steep, black cliff, letting the sheer force of gravity pull things apart as the pieces slip by, abandoning the broken remnants in the bottomless ravine for the nocturnal creatures to finish off. Driven at the core by a clearly focused set of barrelling piano refrains and a polished, powerful rhythm section, these tracks are sweaty, mysterious masterpieces, detailed, engaged, packed with jagged edges and furious metal-inspired energy. The elegant Parisian café mystique is still present in places, but now the overall atmosphere feels more like in a basement bar in some far-off, deserted American time warp, filled with smoke and handfuls of menacing, vampirical characters sucking on absinthe, the ghosts of dead writers and biker poets haunting the dim corners of the doorways. Tracks like "Draws an 8" and "Hymn Harmonia" are fueled with heaping threads of epic, bluesy piano, lingering bites of soul and '70s metal and the slinky, sexy growl of Andrew Rothbard's angst-ridden, desperate vocals. "Tempest II" pools twisted Southern rock roots with old American honky-tonk, while "Rider's Roost" ploughs through the deep rivers of morbid, piano-driven balladry, Bad Seeds-style, with swells of rolling blues rhythms and theatrical bridges of climaxing harmonies. Rothbard flows over unsettling poetry and unearthly imagery with slithering ease, his voice worming between a drunken, howling version of Remy Zero's Cinjun Tate and a weird David Bowie/Nick Cave hybrid beast. Guitarist Joshua Hughes weaves jazz and giddy pop injections through every one of Rothbard's damply sinister piano tirades; when they push the free-form art envelope, it sounds a bit like the Get Hustle without the completely random fluidity or the female sexuality, pouring forth in a wave of cabaret lust and haunted Blue Note melodies. Powerhouse drummer David Clifford shifts from subdued to savage and back, channelling his foreboding, totemic beats through the punctuated metrics of every track, a circling sense of premonition hovering in his determined fluctuations.
This is sensual, prophetic, dense and romantic, sumptuous and altogether eerie. Savor it and enjoy the indulgence. The band's name truly says it all.