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In a word: Sprawling. - 86%

ConorFynes, April 6th, 2016

What is undeniably Alexander von Meilenwald's most ambitious work ever is also conspicuously the album I've listened to the least from The Ruins of Beverast. I don't use the term "genius" lightly, but in this man's case it virtually goes without saying. Who else, short of a genius, could uplift black metal to a truly Wagnerian scope? The Ruins of Beverast's first album, Unlock the Shrine, was one of the most inventive metal albums I've ever heard, with an atmosphere that waxed psychosis. Had I the chance of catching that debut when it came out, I would have been at a loss to predict where he'd take his sound from there. If Unlock the Shrine offered a practically unbeatable level to top, von Meilenwald did the only thing he could: He changed the rules entirely.

Rain Upon the Impure is a fucking mammoth. Even if you've heard other black metal albums that match it for length, I'm hard-pressed to think of another that draws a par in terms of sheer scope. If any measure of genius behind The Ruins of Beverast was left in doubt, think about how one guy manages to conjure the impression of a symphony with his guitar, drums and voice. Unlike the vast majority of would-be solo artists in black metal, I can't imagine a full band having executed it any better. Although von Meilenwald's drum speciality rings true (on this moreso than any other TROB album) the guitars are appropriately biting, the vocals maniacal as ever. Rain Upon the Impure tends to beg for hyperbole in any description.

Each of The Ruins of Beverast's albums are different from one another. I somewhat regret the fact that Rain Upon the Impure was the first one I listened to. Where Unlock the Shrine was intuitive and manic, and the third LP Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite was controlled and emotional, Rain Upon the Impure is sprawling. Riffs and musical segments that would have occupied small spaces on Unlock the Shrine are stretched out over wide distances. This isn't done for the sake of atmosphere (see:Burzum) so much as furthering the sheer sense of scope. Although certainly less dynamic than the schizoid shifts on Unlock the Shrine, I don't think Alex ever pushes his compositions too far here. Sparse, funeral-doomy sections (of which there are plenty here) might lack the same emotional drive I've heard on The Ruins of Beverast's other two masterpieces, but there's a unique experience in hearing such intense, harrowing music with such a patient pace.

Each of the five pieces (excluding the two interludes) are vast and memorable. The most memorable parts of Rain Upon the Impure are when the sprawling assault coalesces into something melodic or otherwise standout-ish. Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite strikes me as one of the greatest albums I've ever heard precisely because von Meilenwald emphasized this element of his composition. The clean-picked intro to "Soil of the Incestuous" beneath tortured howls struck me with awe since my first listen. "Soliloquy of the Stigmatised Shepherd" is the most consistently interesting piece here, ranging from gloomy doom stretches to one of the best uses of "chanted" vocals I've ever heard in a black metal album: "Father, make of me the seed for a silent meadow..." With regards to the lyrics here, I've always been amazed how chilling Alex can be with his choice of words. Even reading them by themselves is enough to elicit an eerie feeling. Unlock the Shrine lyrically revolved around tension and psychosis. On RUTI, the lyrics reflect a sense of emptiness. I think that's a perfect way to match the music here.

The longwinded approach on RUTI would have fallen to pieces in lesser hands. Alexander von Meilenwald's extent of skill as a musician comes through on this album however. Considering the amount of sleepy, "empty" parts here, it's a small miracle that he keeps it engaging through his performance. The guitarwork is minimal but ultimately effective; it's the drums where he really shines. Every hit of the snare feels like it was written down via composer's notation before getting committed to the recorded medium-- I don't think there's any other metal album where I've gotten an impression like that. The most interesting instrument at von Meilenwald's disposal, surprisingly, is the production itself. For a lo-fi production, I am shocked it can sound so vast. RUTI is somehow made to sound like it was performed by a full orchestra in the most opulent concert hall ever arranged. It'll sound murky and weak to some, and heartstoppingly awe-inducing to others. Whatever the case, it's all to this album's benefit that it's graced with such a distinctive recording style.

Though I'd never be able to call Rain Upon the Impure less than a masterpiece album in polite conversation, I do find it interesting that I've never been able to enjoy it as much as the other albums. Even 2013's Blood Vaults, which easily counts as the project's weakest to date, offered more for me to appreciate on my own terms. But with that in mind, I understand fully why RUTI would be considered his magnum opus. All elements of his musical character are drawn out here to their maximum extent. Would there be shame in saying The Ruins of Beverast sounded infinitely better when he condensed the sound a bit with his next album? It matters little in the end. Rain Upon the Impure creates an experience like no other, and it's ultimately difficult to compare it to much else heard in the black metal spectrum.