Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

An Unnerving Trip To The Hinterlands Of The Mind - 98%

dystopia4, July 30th, 2013

After serving a lengthy amount of time in prominent German black metal band Nagelfar, Alexander von Meilenwald chose to embark on a towering vision with himself being the sole band member. Although a demo was previously unleashed into the deep web of underground black metal, this is the first prominent Ruins of Beverast release as well as the first one to be fully realized. Unlock the Shrine is mired under a deep shroud of undying darkness, unnerving disorientation and damp atmosphere. It twists and turns down the bleak corridors of the darkest corners of the mind, digging deep and indeed requiring an ample amount of time to be properly digested. Being equally appropriate for a nighttime hike in the wilderness or a leisurely stroll through a crack-infested urban slum, this offering encompasses aural ugliness and terror while still leaving sufficient room to allow the atmosphere to breathe and properly sink in.

This album maintains relatively lo-fi and unpolished recording values, while at the same time not coming off as all that inaccessible. Although darker than a basement prison cell, there is not a moment that is obfuscated under layers of hissing distortion. Subscribing to a prominent doomy approach, this is generally slow or mid-paced; however, that isn't to say that faster sections don't break out from the lumbering mass on a semi-regular occasion. The inclusion of doom-oriented passages certainly adds to this album's unique atmosphere. This recording feels dark and damp throughout, while oscillating between a cerebral and visceral approach. This atmosphere is littered with dark ambience, samples – both of spoken word and of assorted sounds and bizarre tones.

While this features no shortage of cold, unhinged distortion, melody often creeps its way into the mix. These melodies are expertly crafted and provide a glimmer of light in the overwhelming darkness. While many albums will have a main attraction – be that riffs, melody, songwriting or vocal performance, the success of Unlock the Shrine lies within the culmination of varied dynamics and individual parts allowing for a truly memorable whole. This is more than the sum of its parts – everything compliments what it is playing along with or next to. There isn't one thing that overshadows the next thing, the convergence of many different aspects allow for the finished work to be so monolithic and powerful.

The keyboards and samples are used a lot more actively than in your average black metal band, creating an atmosphere while also not being a background affair. The keyboard is not just lingering ambient drones – they play prominent melodies that often emit a militaristic vibe. The guitar often is a barrage of grainy tremolo, although does slow down into crushing (although vaguely melodic) doom passages. The man does know how to contort a musical idea through various stages of life. For example, there's a carnivalesque keyboard melody in “Summer Decapitation Ritual” that soon morphs into a repeating truly epic riff (that includes the keyboard still playing a slightly altered version of it). This later comes back in a black metal section in the form of raging-yet-melodic tremolo. The vocals are a somewhat reserved snarly rasp, which are executed well. Although definitely holding a certain amount of bite, they never go into a full fledged assault, allowing his wondrous instrumentation to take centre stage. His drum work is very successful, knowing when to hold back as well as when to blast into a bombastic fury.

The one criticism that this album does tend to draw is the amount of interludes it has. Every black metal opus is followed by a shorter atmospheric piece. To be honest, the amount of ambient present in black metal (especially the amount that is completely average) can wear tiring. Ambient certainly works well in black metal, however, the amount of saturation has grown a bit high, with many bands seeming to sprinkle it on as an afterthought. These interludes are not token ambient filler. They are an integral part of the release's structure, allowing it time to breathe as well as adding to the creepy and unnerving nature of this beast. “Procession of Pawns” feels like an unknown hostile being slowly creeping towards you, hidden by the shadows. The watery dark psychedelic guitar tone in “God Sent No Sign” works perfectly alongside the off-kilter melodies. “Subterranean Homicide Lamentation” lurches forward in a state of militaristic menace. The only miniscule gripe that should be brought forward is that he probably could have found more powerful gunshot samples for “White Abyss”. These are not simple filler or constructed solely for a more atmospheric break from the more extreme material; the album would not be complete without them.

This recording is truly a monolithic and complex entity. It includes countless twists and turns that all go somewhere viable instead of spastically twisting off into an ocean of overcomplicated pointlessness. Everything here reaches towards a greater purpose. This release is an absolute beast, a manifestation of terror and unbridled hideousness. Although small rays of light do occasionally present themselves, this is no walk in the park. This does take some time to sink in; the journey that unfolds is worth every second of your patience.