The Ruins of Beverast is the brainchild of Alexander von Meilenwald, one time drummer of the now defunct German black metal act, Nagelfar (not to be confused with Sweden’s Naglfar), who were responsible for releasing a number of fine black metal releases before constant line-up changes eventually lead to their demise, but not before releasing the excellent Virus West in 2001.
Unlock The Shrine features nearly 70 minutes of some of the most bone-bendingly fucked up black metal I’ve heard in recent years. Not only does this project push the black metal envelope, it finds out where the envelope lives, follows it home and torments it until it hangs itself in some grievous bathroom. Unlock the Shrine is the type of album that could swoop down on your sunny afternoon picnic and turn it into an apocalyptic hallucination that ends with weeping choirs, burning congregations, and cityscapes falling to rubble. This is raw, hypnotic black metal tailor-made for those who interested in artists that incorporate new ideas, but remain true to the genre’s original intention of crushing all that is fashionable.
Unsurprisingly, Alexander von Meilenwald’s drumming takes center stage compared to the guitars, bass and echoed vocals. The songs are long, averaging between 8-10 minutes each, and they’re all are followed by shorter, ‘mood enhancing’ interludes. Some might see the interludes as too much filler, but they’re a fitting accomplice to the oppressive, dark sense spilled by the actual songs. The second interlude “Skeleton Coast,” for example, has a very creepy, ambient feel with disjointed drumming and a locust-rasped devil’s voice that pushes a cruel thorn into the listener’s brain before ripping into the bedlamic third track, “Euphoria When The Bombs Fell.”
But it’s the feature songs themselves that really make the album essential. “Summer Decapitation Ritual” starts with a furious tempo that eventually slows to a funeral march interspersed with lugubrious horns reminiscent of Thulsa Doom’s snake cult, and “Subterranean Homicide Lamentation” sports a colossal strut that sets the foundation for the album’s 12 minute closer, “The Mine.” The first four minutes of this epic cut builds on a repetitive, hypnotic framework that eventually breaks into one of the strangest and most unsettling vocal arrangements around the 8 minute mark that pushes the song in a doomily “sing-song” fashion until things finally degrade into a final interlude of gun fire, alarms and the howls of a clearly tormented man.
Battle Kommand Records strikes again with this genre bending, apocalyptic debut from Ruins of Beverast. Unlock the Shrine is horrifically grim and epic in scope, and probably not suited for casual listeners, but it is absolutely one of the year’s most unsettling releases.
Go forth into apocalyptic blazes.