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Incredible - 100%

Sargon_The_Terrible, August 9th, 2007

This album is a transcendent, apocalyptic tour-de-force of hatred, agony, and horror. The sound of "Unlock The Shrine" is reminiscent of some other bleak artists like Xasthur and Forgotten Tomb, with a bit of the epic feel of Nehemah thrown in. It's not straight Black Metal, as there are a lot of ambient sounds in here as well. But that is part of the coolness on this CD. Most of the time, when BM bands use too many sound effects for atmosphere, they end up being dull, but the atmospheric passages on this album only serve to heighten the cold, deathly feel of the work, and also to perfectly set off the genuine songs. "Between Bronze Walls" starts off slower, then builds to a thunderous blaze. Then, after the wasteland of "Skeleton Coast", we are treated to the full-speed assault of "Euphoria When The Bombs Fell". The moody passage of "God Sent No Sign" sets you up for the horrific, unforgettable "The Clockhand's Groaning Circles" – what a masterpiece of Black Metal that fucking song is.

The pounding, hypnotic "Procession Of Pawns" should be dull, but it only builds anticipation for the monstrous slayage of "Summer Decapitation Ritual", which starts off a blast speed, then halfway through busts out a Summoning-style march-and-pound section that left my jaw hanging in amazement. "Cellartunes" is like being trapped in a freezer for two minutes until the dragging nightmare of the title tracks destroys you. The next track is just a two-minute track of slow pounding, but you can't stop it, because right after comes the monstrous epic of "The Mine".

The sound, and the uses of sound on this disc are impressive as Hell. The vocals are double and triple-tracked, but not synched exactly, so it sounds like a chorus of screaming, growling, muttering hatred. The production is undeniably a Black Metal sound, but the lower end is huge. Meilenwald uses a thunderous synth-bass sound to underline all the atmospheric parts, and he also uses it to accent the music itself. It sounds like a goddamned battle-drum, and when he uses it to open a song, as when "Decapitation Ritual" blasts off, it sounds like the fucking world is being destroyed.

For a debut, this is just a monster album, as it demonstrates a mind totally in control of all the elements of songwriting and sound to create a bleak and crushing soundscape. I don't know if it's even possible to go anywhere after a terrific debut like this. "Unlock The Shrine" is just a monument to sound and fury, and it is just a pity that not enough people will get to hear it, or understand it even if they do. This is Black Metal for the elite. Amazing.

Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com