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Alexander von Meilenwald is an awesome musician, and the German black metal scene was definitely crippled when he and Zorn split Nagelfar. However, Alex thankfully continued his musical career with his own solo project The Ruins of Beverast. This new project is a far cry from Nagelfar's heathenism themes though. He seems to be more interested in darker themed music this time around as evidenced in this project's debut release Unlock the Shrine. The good news is that Alex can still make his music shine on his own. The bad news is that this debut as a whole has a real hard time shining and that the music really isn't as strong as it could have been.
The music played here actually jumps around several styles while maintaining a dark tone. There's characteristics of depressive black metal here, especially in "Between Bronze Walls" and "The Clockhand's Groaning Circles". There's also a sort of really fast and raw approach on "Euphoria When Bombs Fell" and "Summer Decapitation Ritual"; these songs are really chaotic and remind me of Gnaw Their Tongues' material that leans more toward black metal with even more black metal influence thrown in. The album produced from this mix is an intriguing one that really shines in some places, but is also rather dim in others.
My biggest gripe with this album is the excess of interludes. There's one after every song on this album; and while some of them sound interesting like the creepy "Skeleton Coast" and the outro piece "White Abyss", their overall presence does very little for this album. If they weren't there, the album would be a good 14 and a half minutes shorter (and that's even if "White Abyss" was kept as an outro). With them in there, this album is a daunting 70 minutes, so taking away the interludes would actually be beneficial. None of the interludes actually sound bad, they're just really unnecessary.
As for the actual songs, the quality varies. "Between Bronze Walls" is a slower paced piece, but it's varied enough with its riffs during its eight minute course to keep things interesting. The other slower piece is "The Clockhand's Groaning Circles" which is much weaker with less interesting riffs included. Same deal with the two songs following the faster more chaotic pattern, "Euphoria When Bombs Fell" and "Summer Decapitation Ritual". "Euphoria..." is a rather average piece with not a lot of standout moments; on the other hand, "Summer Decapitation Ritual" is really, really impressive with the whirlwind of riffs more memorable and the catchy break in the middle to keep things interesting. The remaining two pieces, the title track and "The Mine", are definitely good enough to place the album in the above average scoring range with "The Mine" being the ideal piece to end the album with its memorable chanting at the end fading into "White Abyss".
This album is good, but it's not great. It feels bloated with almost 15 minutes that could have been put to better use (and will be in The Ruins of Beverast's subsequent albums). There's a few winners among the songs, but the closest thing to a loser would be "The Clockhand's Groaning Circles" with its boring riffs that drag out for too long. Unlock the Shrine is still worth checking out for the winner songs though, especially "Summer Decapitation Ritual". Alexander von Meilenwald will prove his musical genius to a much better degree in the next two albums though; that's where his essential material is.