I have had the pleasure of reviewing two splits featuring the Ruins of Beverast in a reasonably short space of time. This subsequent release is of a much darker nature than Don’t Walk On The Mass Graves but also less rewarding. Although I am and always will be a Ruins of Beverast fan I found this release was not as powerful as some of his other recent ones. That being said I am not turning my nose up at it but as we delve deeper into this release you will begin to understand my apprehensions.
Let’s start with the other band in the split, Almyrkvi, a one-man act from Iceland—another band I had not heard of prior to this split. As always I am eternally grateful when a band I am familiar with and enjoy introduces me to music I have not heard before. I personally prefer to find music myself or get direct recommendations and finding an unknown band on a split with one I am strongly acquainted with is almost as good as a tip from a friend.
The two tracks featured from this band are of an atmospheric nature though more pervasive in sound than the average atmospheric act and fit neatly into the genre of death-doom. The music is cacophonic and unnerving but at the same time simple and dogged. It is somewhat oppressive; there is very little melodic or harmonic content that you can really latch onto, and when there is, the harmony is quite unconventional which makes the melodies hard to recall. This gives the music a rather confusing feeling and often it is hard to tell which song you are in and at which moment. There are glimmers of reverb-drenched guitar melodies heard periodically but overall, I found the music to have a decidedly ‘wall-of-sound’ quality to it. I think it does not help that the mixing is dense and wet with effects. As anyone reading my Esoctrilihum review will know I am not averse to unconventional mixing, though I do find the production quality of the first half of this EP to be rather flat. I also find the first two tracks featured lack a sense of dynamic. The music is unrelenting and slow and my brain starts to switch off before too long. This is not to say that this music is of objectively inferior quality compared to other bands but I personally find the composition, production, and general presentation of the first two tracks to be a bit dull.
There are some interesting moments, however. At about 3:16 into the first track, “Astomatous Grove”, we hear some sampled drums, an interesting quality that gives the piece an industrial feel. I also enjoy the picked guitar riff we hear played under the same section. At around 4:10 into the same track, we hear a washed-out, dissonant solo that is like an insect buzzing around my head. It is unsettling; I strain my ears to try and make out the notes before they slip away into the night. At five minutes in, we hear a strange electronic/metallic sound that plays out of time with the rest of the piece and although it is an interesting element, I find it very distracting as it is much louder than the other instruments. It is unfortunate as this is where the song peaks and the clean vocals heard interspersed with the screams are intriguing but the weird noise on top is taking too much of the attention away from the music. The clean guitar lull we hear right after this section has an ominous ring to it and leads neatly into a slow trudge that ends the song. I do find the song is growing on me more with each listen but I still find the piece to be a bit lackluster. The weird noises I mentioned earlier (five minutes in) still annoy me every time I listen to it and I don’t think that is going to change.
The second track “Managarmr” feels like more of the same for me. I did enjoy the slightly atonal melodic leads heard as the track starts, but the piece devolves into a repetitive swirl of riffs and reverb. I honestly cannot conjure up much to write about this. I would not say I dislike this music by any stretch of the imagination, but I find it slightly wearing. I keep waiting for the ‘wow’ moment that gives me a rush of endorphins but the music just never delivers that. No bad blood meant towards the band; I think texturally what he is doing is impressive, but the music just hasn’t clicked with me yet.
On to track three, “The Grand Nebula Pulse”, the first Ruins of Beverast track on the split. The piece begins with what sounds like plainchant but with a larger harmonic range than traditional medieval chant. The song slowly comes to life under the repetitive chant as synths, then drums, then guitars are softly introduced. The music sounds both traditional and industrial at the same time, which is not something I get to write often. The introduction to this piece is interesting, to say the least. As the song reaches full texture we get what we expect of Ruins of Beverast, a maelstrom of maddened instrumental layers, coupled with the guttural outbursts of a farmer come high priest. At 3:40 the track dips into a seventies feel, albeit with slightly more dissonance. The piece ends on a synth-laden section that feels like the soundtrack to some eighties cyberpunk movie featuring medieval monks. This is something I would love to see. I am always impressed at Alexander von Meilenwald’s ability to create music with such an ambivalent texture, it has an ethereal quality to it that I experience in almost no other act I listen to. Transcendent yet dejected at the same time. An alarming, dismaying psychedelia that both envelopes and eats you alive.
Although I do enjoy this piece, I can’t say it speaks to me as much as the track on the previous split did or the one proceeding it. This might be my least favourite Ruins of Beverast release in a while and that is saying quite a bit. I find the music to be a bit wearing and does not excite me as much as usual, although it is a far cry from bad.
Track four, “Hunters”, might be the best track on the record. The riff that kicks off the song is ungodly and is the most memorable part on the EP. This riff just keeps smacking you in the face for about two minutes all the while interspersed with manic drum fills. The section change is not all that noticeable but it does provide the song with some additional material; the characteristic hypnotic looping Ruins of Beverast has become known for. At 2:40 a melodic riff is heard over guitar picking, breaking up the song slightly. This section is almost comical but you are scared to laugh just in case it’s not a joke. Then at 3:30, the song goes full tilt and becomes a terrifying wash of musical layers. The clean vocals proceeding are foreboding and are joined by a chorus of lost souls before the song once again slips back into an animalistic furore. The cathartic moment comes at 5:31 where the music becomes groovier and more melodic. This part of the piece is the perfect culmination and subsequent peak of everything that came before, it is that ‘wow’ moment I have been waiting for this entire EP. The solo, featuring some uncharacteristically jazzy notes, sucks us in and leads us neatly into the fadeout.
Although I have said I was not a huge fan of the first three tracks and that this is one of my least favourite Ruins of Beverast releases in a while, the EP is still well worth the listen. Don’t take my word for it, make up your own mind.
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You can grab a digital copy of this self-titled EP on the Ruins of Beverast Bandcamp page. If you enjoy the first act on the split also be sure to check out Almyrkvi’s Bandcamp. Vinyl copies of this split are available over at the 20 Buck Spin website. CDs are available over at the Nuclear Blast page.