The Ruins of Beverast - _Rain Upon the Impure_
(Van, 2007)
by: T. DePalma (9.5 out of 10)
It is a testament to Alexander Von Meilanwald's ability and (rapid) growth as a musician that The Ruins of Beverast's first and much acclaimed album, _Unlock the Shrine_, appears so imperfect and nearly irrelevant beside this latest work. _Rain Upon the Impure_ is comprised of seven tracks total: five complete compositions at roughly fifteen minutes a piece, with two brief segues between them. Whereas _Unlock the Shrine_ moved from several styles and themes from track to track, here Meilanwald's vision is compacted into steady arrangements of black metal, countenanced by the usual penchant for film samples, keyboards and alternatively medieval melodies. The album is like a cross between Deathspell Omega and Enslaved, with songs that are both frigid and intricate, with an epic scope that sidesteps the redundant progressions of the former or the latter's pretentious inverse epistemology, all conveyed through a vaporous and ghostly haze of instruments.

The opening track, "50 Forts Along the Rhine", is a fair summary of the album's general format. Lyrically based on the widespread destruction as the Roman Legions fought against the Germanic tribes in the first century BC, "50 Forts..." opens in a brief rainstorm that ushers in a succession of hideous war-howls and hard to discern, saturated chords moving in waves that double under the masked battery of the drums. Keyboards enter in auroric glows answering the tense and swampy tension of the verse. Suddenly, there's a break; "clean" refrains appear in entrancing lead against a background of drifting feedback and muddy footsteps trampling through bloody embankments. "We learnt that war had become art", croons a voice of warped and deathly tenor removed from Meilanwald's usually snarling invective. The mood later glides into a stirring and spirited collision of soon spent battle lust ending in a cartography of carnage:

The Northern eyesight is extinguished / The Western limbs are dead / The Southern torso is crippled / East cannot defend.

Despite its daunting and potentially foolhardy setup, _Rain Upon the Impure_ still manages to evade sounding numb or repetitive. Careful transitions between doom, black, symphonic and gothic metal within a single track, as well as contrasts that lay alongside them individually, keep the pace in flux. The "heathen" choir that appears in "Soliloquy of the Stigmatised Shepherd" is answered by monastic chants in the later "Blood Vaults", while "Soil of the Incestuous" with its "painfully roaming" lyrics of life and death seen through various pairs of opposites (virgin / rapist, sun / moon, rabbit / snake, soul / flesh) amplify the grim setting. And through all this, it never feels as if Meilanwald is trying too hard. Though the lyrics certainly paint a tortured picture, it never makes for torturous listening.

Criticism toward the album has chiefly revolved around the especially low-sounding or "weak" production, but this seems appropriate for where these songs lead, which is actually vague and indefinite. With the comparatively meager ensemble that makes up the band's arsenal, incapable of the gradual nuances of a true orchestra that could realize these sometimes Wagnerian surges along with subtler moments, the low-mixing tempers track length with muted gauze (which, after ten minutes or so, is easy to get used to).

The album has an almost weightless remove that helps ease perspective of history and performance as an apparition rather than re-enactment. It plays with a spectral, even religious ambience despite the throng of beats. (Although the drums maintain a kind of artificiality and lack of force, my focus tends to drift toward the deluge of guitar. On the other hand, that the booklet is basically unreadable, even if in keeping with this theme, is less effective and largely annoying regardless.) This "supernatural" atmosphere is again partly emphasized by Beverast's Dolorian-like reverb on the guitar and constant use of film samples, which provide an eerie and fresh transition between verses and at times perfectly describe and introduce the accompanying music. Thus, a quote from the otherwise campy and melodramatic Vincent Price is apropros when (reciting Poe) he's used to underline these "vast forms, that move fantastically to a discordant melody".

Highly Recommended.

Contact: http://www.van-gbr.de

(article published 25/3/2007)


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