The Ruins Of Beverast

The Thule Grimoires

Written by: AP on 10/10/2021 13:30:46

I first stumbled across Alexander von Meilenwald’s The Ruins of Beverast at the 2018 edition of Roadburn Festival where the band delivered their previous album “Exuvia” in its entirety, and was instantly struck by their unorthodox take on doom and black metal. These genres are most often quite guitar and vocal-centric, yet this German act seemed to prefer a more rhythmic and ritualistic approach in which session drummer Helvegr was supplemented by additional percussionists, and the space between the songs was occupied by a kind of dark, psychedelic ambience. It was unlike any other extreme metal band I had experienced at the time, and so naturally, I made a mental note to keep an eye out for their eventual next release. It arrived in the beginning of this year under the title of “The Thule Grimoires” and like its predecessor from 2017, it offers a complex, avant-garde, and times very demanding listening experience clocking in at nearly 70 minutes of runtime.

The aforementioned focus on rhythm is also one of the first things to strike out from “The Thule Grimoires”, albeit not exactly in the same way as at that Roadburn’ show. After an eerie intro of delay effects and distorted voices, “Ropes into Eden” unleashes a drumbeat that sounds like a nail gun become stuck, and intermittently dropping flanger guitar chords that seems to turn the formula for black metal on its head. There is a tremolo melody somewhere within the ominously reverberating soundscape, and by stretching your imagination, the drumming could be likened to a blastbeat — but there is no escaping the fact that you would be hard pressed to find other artists that sound like The Ruins of Beverast do on this track. It is far from the best “The Thule Grimoires” has to offer; in fact, it is the weakest link on the album if you ask me. But its nearly 13 minutes of running length, significant portions of which are spent exploring doom ridden and spacey atmospheres, nonetheless lay the groundwork for a genuinely unique piece of extreme metal in which the uncompromising vision of a single musician is realised with brutal efficiency.

It is the second song, “The Tundra Shines”, that sends the snowball rolling unstoppably until the “Deserts to Bind and Defeat” eventually brings the record to its conclusion. Here, the immensity of Meilenwald’s rhythm section arrives at the forefront at last, like a drumcorps leading an army to battle as the soldiers chant for triumph and the keyboards and guitars paint the scene for a confrontation of epic proportions. “The Tundra Shines” is a varied and enormous piece of music that seamlessly blends together the band’s the core elements of doom and black metal, offering both Peter Steele-sque, ecclesiastical singing and icy shrieks, a pace that shifts from glacial to storming at will, and melodies that switch character from lofty and elusive to merciless and harsh without ever losing sight of the red chord that is ‘Beverast’s signature cavernous tone. This is a pattern that repeats itself throughout the album, albeit with an increasing amount of unusual vocals inlays like the shamanic barks and howls heard in both “Kromlech’n Knell” and “Mammothpolis”, or the witchy female cries at the beginning of the standout “Anchoress in Furs”. Unsurprisingly, once again, it is the phenomenal atavistic percussion that erupts halfway through the song, amidst growls that sound like a satanic séance, that steals the show — and there is more of the same on the plate when “Polar Hiss Hysteria” takes over as the blackest, most intense, and most menacing track on the record.

As hinted at earlier in this review though, the album’s crowning jewel has to be the colossal final piece “Deserts to Bind and Defeat”, which is meditative and funerary at first, Meilenwald’s voice cracking and warbling in dismay as somber melodies resonate around him, but then explodes, like lava through the glacier of a dormant stratovolcano, into a gargantuan, atmospheric black metal elegy rendered even more forlorn by an ethereal Gregorian choir around the five-minute mark. Eventually the track comes full circle, collapsing into a blackened doom metal piece and slowing down with each passing minute until there is nothing left but whispers and sighs. A sigh is perhaps also the first thing the listener will exude, not out of having been released from the all-encompassing grip of this record, but because they are likely to want to spin it again in order to discover the myriad subtleties that may have been missed on the first listen. And is that not the hallmark of a great album? One that continues to beckon for you, one that lingers in your mind for weeks and months, demanding to be heard again. In a sense, “The Thule Grimoires” is the perfect example of the benefits of having no other band members; there has been no need to listen to differing opinions, and as such, the result is the focused and relentless achievement of a singular vision — the vision of Alexander von Meilenwald, who continues to find fresh and transformative ways to express himself through extreme music.

8

Download: The Tundra Shines, Anchoress in Furs, Polar Hiss Hysteria, Deserts to Bind and Defeat
For the fans of: Blut aus Nord, Bølzer, Deathspell Omega, Dodecahedron
Listen: Facebook

Release date 30.01.2021
Ván Records

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