F U L L . R E V I E W S
The Ruins of Beverast - Unlock the Shrine - 2006 - Battle Kommand Records
Even the old faithful, the one-man black metal project, has been influenced by this trend despite its violently antiestablishment, underground roots (even by metal’s standards). With the inclusion of file sharing (Napster, et al), Myspace, etc., it seems as though new knock-off projects are cropping up nonstop. But as simple as the black metal formula may seem, and as often as it is reprised, truly moving success remains elusive and rare; diamonds in the rough, so to speak.
The most recent diamond to be unearthed comes from the west of Germany in the form of The Ruins of Beverast and the debut ‘Unlock the Shrine’. As the sole work of ex-Nagelfar drummer Alexander Von Meilenwald, this album is a deeply personal and unsettling work that slowly consumes both mind and spirit like a disease, gaining a pulsing, feral strength as it progresses.
This unpleasant description of festering growth is (I would argue) the goal of all black metal, and The Ruins of Beverast have captured the spirit in high form, albeit not quite conventionally. In fact, although much of ‘Unlock the Shrine’ is in the standard form of dark, droning hymns, it as also at times rather ‘progressive’. The most jarring of these methods are the highly conspicuous synths that appear on a number of tracks. These are not the steady, background variety (a usually cheap attempt at atmosphere), nor are (with any consistency) the ubiquitous lead melodies a la Summoning. During the track ‘Summer Decapitation Ritual’, they are indeed rather Summoning-esque, evoking a medieval, court-like atmosphere, but this is only due to the context of the song. Other examples, like ‘Procession of Pawns’, are far less majestic, instead a strange distortion of hurdy-gurdy like syncopation and looped melodies.
Much of black metal utilizes similar methods—melody nearly obscured by dissonance. Once the listener grasps the context of the song, appreciating that melody is not particularly difficult. But the perspective taken by The Ruins of Beverast goes beyond that. Even after one becomes accustomed to the methods used, and even after the melodies are familiar, their very nature still seems impossible to fully embrace.
Another interesting feature is the heavy inclusion of ambience. Every other track on ‘Unlock the Shrine’ is an ‘ambient’ piece, acting as an interlude that sustains the claustrophobic mood so essential to the potency of this entire album. Some are entirely without form or focus, others highly melodic by comparison, but they are one and all clearly separate from the actual songs they oppose.
All these factors contribute to a result both entrancing and unsettling. The relative cleanliness of the computerized melodies and sparse choir vocals lure the ear onward while at the same time making a mockery of both, and all the pleasure, order, and hope they represent. So it perhaps best not to name The Ruins of Beverast a diamond in the rough, as such a title would indicate light and prosperity, and ‘Unlock the Shrine’ is anything but positive. The fact remains, though, that this distinctive, haunting epic in all its contrary discordance, is a remarkable example of the continuing development of uncomfortably honest, dark music.
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