The Ruins of Beverast is one of those bands whose every release feels like a deliberate exercise in the unpredictable. Its like a black and doom metal gumball machine. You know in general what you’re going to get, but you won’t fully understand the specific flavor, color, and texture of each release until you’ve got the thing in your possession. Candy analogies aside, Alexander von Meilenwald’s career over the past decade as the creator of and solo performer in The Ruins of Beverast, while varied in tone and sonic direction, has been nothing short of exemplary. From the lo-fi catacombs of Rain Upon the Impure to the doom-laden heaviness of Blood Vaults, each release has painted consistently mesmerizing portraits of death, suffering, and mysticism through a unique amalgamation of black and doom metal. While each release by the band has been unique in comparison to its predecessors, it’s been four years since The Ruins of Beverast released a full-length, and 2016’s puzzling EP Takitum Tootem! was a sonic curveball of epic proportions. Equally championed and reviled by fans, the EP not only added confusion as to which sonic direction the band would take with its latest record, Exuvia, but trepidation in some as to whether it would be any good. If you were worried that The Ruins of Beverast is losing its edge, may your fears be assuaged. This is some premium metal.
Exuvia feels like the culmination of a decade-long journey for the band toward new sonic and thematic territory, hinted at most clearly in last year’s EP release, which delved into musical and philosophical concepts behind mankind’s loss of its ascendant status in the biological world. While albums such as Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite showed glimmers of the mythic, shamanistic sounds that the band is capable of conjuring, few works in the band’s discography could mentally prepare listeners for the raw, psychedelia-infused tribal nightmare that bleeds through every inch of this record. Airy and ethereal chants, pounding and spacey drums, and ethereal guitar effects all combine to create an almost trancelike musical narrative that sucks you in from the album’s opening seconds and genuinely grips the listener throughout. This is atmospheric, blackened doom metal at its most mythical and truly epic. Few bands are making music like this, especially at this caliber or scale.
The unique sonic approach Exuvia takes in contrast to The Ruins of Beverast’s previous albums becomes apparent during the first notes of the towering title track, which kicks off the album with a musical progression that feels like Nevermind-era Nirvana riffing on the Twin Peaks soundtrack while clothed in animal skins and dancing rhythmically around a bonfire. It’s a slow, incredibly evocative opening that builds into a monolith over the album’s first few minutes. The song begins with an eerie chant, which serves as the first taste of the immense tribal soundscapes this album will conjure throughout its duration. Guitars echo in reverb heaven while the kit thunders in the background of the mix like a caged animal until its heaviness seemingly can be contained no longer, bursting to the forefront with a blast of speed and aggression. It’s an enthralling opening statement that deftly displays the intricate and incredible songwriting prowess that Alexander von Meilenwald has been cultivating since the band’s inception. It is a wildly evocative, deeply layered, and expertly performed track that sets the stage for the journey ahead.
Journey is the appropriate word here. This album is a trip and a half. The layering of instruments and sounds is exceptional, and could keep the active listener busy for hours on end trying to parse out and dissect each individual component. This commitment to density is evident throughout the remainder of the album. Signature reverb-heavy guitars mingle with tribal chanting, pounding drums and heavy doom riffing on the album’s second track, “Surtur Barbaar Maritime”, while “Maere (On a Stillbirth’s Tomb)” uses its guitar effects to create an atmosphere of horror that sinks its teeth into you like a possessed apostate. Album centerpiece “The Pythia’s Pale Wolves” is a psychedelic fourteen-minute epic that incorporates electronics, some absolutely frightening vocal work, and… bagpipes. Yeah, bagpipes. While that probably sounds incredibly hokey, it fits beautifully into the overall atmosphere of the track, and may be missed entirely without active listening. One of The Ruins of Beverast‘s principal strengths is its ability to take sounds and instruments that seem to lack complimentary aspects and bring them together in altogether stunning ways, and that strength is on full display throughout Exuvia. Not to be outdone, the albums final two tracks “Towards Malakia” and “Takitum Tootem (Trance)” incorporate wind instruments, synths, and a heavy doom influence to bring the album to a delirious and incredibly heavy conclusion, as Alexander von Meilenwald chants, rasps, and bellows maniacally as the music barrels into a mist of all-consuming dread.
Exuvia is an incredibly dense album. It is also a thoroughly rewarding listen. Fifteen-minute songs breeze by in a fiery squall of sound that never once veers south of interesting. It is intricately plotted, expertly performed, and engaging from start to finish. Listeners who like their doom and black metal drenched in atmosphere and organic, tribal overtones will have found one of their favorite albums of all time. For all who enjoy good metal, look no further than Exuvia for an hour of incredible music. Strongly recommended.
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Exuvia is available now via Ván Records and can be purchased here.