Altar of Plagues were a stripped-back Irish black metal band, founded in Cork by James Kelly. A genre that is often associated with the flamboyant and where make-up and leather is a common feature, Kelly and his fellow band members preferred to concentrate on the music rather than the image and took to the stage in their own everyday attire.
After turning heads in the metal community with a string of self-recorded demos and EPs, the band released their first studio album, ‘White Tomb’ to wide acclaim in the Spring of 2009 on ‘Profound Lore Records’.
Following a year of intense touring and changes to their line-up, the group secured a recording contract with ‘Candlelight Records’ in early 2010.They released their sophomore album ‘Mammal’ in 2011, with US, Canadian and rest of the world editions featuring alternate artworks, making the varying territorial editions collectors’ items for the bands legions of fans. The murky-yet-vast production on ‘Mammal’ garnered the attention of the metal world. With their chosen production and mixing methods on this record Altar of Plagues achieves a presence and attention even on lower volumes, unlike most of their contemporaries.
The album was followed by subsequent touring, including a European headline tour and festival appearances. Altar of Plagues became a recognised name on the tour circuit on both sides of the Atlantic playing such prestigious events stateside as the third annual ‘Hopscotch Music Festival’ in Raleigh, North Carolina, in September 2012.
The group, Kelly once stated in an interview with ‘Pitchfork’ would lay dormant for extended periods and then work obsessively in an isolated, caffeine-fuelled state for two-week bursts, using that sporadic schedule to create music that capitalised more on feeling than technicality. With the bands third album, ‘Teethed Glory and Injury’ which was released in 2013 they unveiled a dense and demanding record, black metal meets industrial at times even reminiscent of Swans or Nine Inch Nails. The album met with wide critical acclaim with critic Anthony Fantano of the ‘The Needle Drop’ placing it at number 3 on ‘The Needle Drop's’ Top-50 Albums of that year and later placed it at number 56 on the "Top 200 Albums of the 2010s. Terrorizer named it number 2 in their Top 50 Albums of 2013.
In June 2013, the band unexpectedly announced via their social media that they were calling it a day and that their final time taking to the stage would be at the Unsound Festival in Poland that October. However, in January 2015, after having teased at it for weeks, Altar of Plagues announced there would be further live performances in 2015. Subsequently, in late 2015, the band announced it would embark on one last European tour with fellow Irish band Malthusian (with whom Altar of Plagues' shared their drummer Johnny King). The band took to the stage for their final live performance at the Damnation Festival 2015.
Kelly, known for his eclectic listening tastes can feel fully represented by the music his band made. If anything, the trio have proven that traditional ideas associated with particular musical genres can be combined to harmonious effect into new and often strange hybrids. James Kelly now releases music under the name WIFE while Johnny King went on to drum for Conan.