Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The Ruins of Beverast - Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite (2009) 94/100.

There is something inherently wrong with the world I live in if I can enjoy the records of the talented Alexander von Meilenwald as much as I do, but still not consider his sole creation of The Ruins of Beverast a sure fire favourite of mine. Despite my strong feelings towards each of the three full-lengths Meilenwald has produced under this moniker, I still find that they can be pretty intimidating to the point of inaccessibility. Whether it’s about the levels of experimentation, or the sheer length of the songs, there is a quality to The Ruins of Beverast that I find so overwhelming that I can only listen to this blessed records occasionally. Even now as I listen to the hypnotic structures of songs such as ‘Raised this Stone as a Ghastly Memorial’, I feel intimidated by the sheer presence of atmosphere and overwhelmed by the grand scales of power in every specific element which flows before me like a seemingly gentile river which could potentially turn deadly in a matter of minutes give nature’s strong grasp over all that exists. Applying this metaphor to the music of The Ruins of Beverast seems fairly apt.

As on the short filler songs like ‘Transcending Saturnine Iericho Skies’, Meilenwald gives his third opus delicate textures which weren’t in view of the public during his second mammoth record, entitled ‘Rain Upon The Impure’, a record with a muggy atmospheric texture to it due to the dirty production and distorted guitars. To me, essentially, this third record combines the avant-gardé skill of the debut with the dirty, mesmerising power of the sophomore. Initially, I must admit, the title for this opus did put me off. The imagery behind the words ‘Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite’ is gross enough to put the least squeamish people off their food and I was no different. I don’t know the explanation behind the title and I’m not entirely sure I want to. Regardless of the title, there is also an inaccessibility to the music which proceeds the opening moments here, too. I don’t consider this an entirely negative thing. In fact, it’s more of a positive when explained as coherently as possible. Sometimes there are records so good that they shouldn’t be overplayed, or simply cannot be overplayed due to the fact that they’re just that good for fear of tarnishing them in time.

The quality of the musicianship has never been so high as it is here. Whether we’re analysing the opening song, or songs like ‘Kain’s Countenance Fell’, each song explicitly delves into the wonderful imagination of Meilenwald and takes us on a cosmic journey through galaxies we’ve never seen or heard about before. With songs like ‘The Restless Mills’ we’re introduced to traditional elements such as repetitious drum patterns and fast paced tremolo riffs, but this doesn’t last long as Meilenwald is an expert at chopping and changing the direction of his material through song writing which maintains a perfectly timed balance throughout. As the distorted, tremolo guitars fade to black, the samples and accompanying keyboards fixate the listener on images of Pagan rituals, or tribal dances, even natural imagery in fillers like ‘Theriak - Baal - Theriak’ which, albeit brief, stir up a lot of emotions in me, from an uneasiness to dread as the animalistic cries ring out over the indecipherable voices. With the use of entrancing percussion, the intoxication of the listener is heightened and as on any routine drug trip, we’re invited to watch the swirling atmosphere build and build and build ever so slowly to a crescendos of massive proportions. For me, the true talent of Meilenwald is hard to pin point because he truly does possess many.

Through his time with Nagelfar and so on, he has become an expert drummer, noted for his skills and variation, two characteristics which are often exuded by himself on this epic encounter, again, as shown on songs like ‘The Restless Mills’ as he varies his approach play by using blast beats and then moving swiftly on to a less rigid and more fluent style before his audience begins to become restless with the lack of innovative techniques. ‘The Restless Mills’, amongst others, is a perfect example of Meilenwald’s perfected use of imagery through music as he moulds his songs into poetical forms, delighting the senses as any great poet does with his firm grasp on what makes a record a huge success. With the use of a subtle, but perfectly audible mechanised sound (probably created by the keyboards), the atmosphere of the song really does produce a feeling of restlessness and repetitious hidden in the soundscapes, which poetically speaks of the daily grind of day-to-day life as an average man, or woman.

His experimentation doesn’t just occur in the form of his drumming style, but also in his vocals. I don’t consider Meilenwald the best black metal vocalist, but he conveys his eerie message well in his rasps and shrieks. Not only does he provide a typical basis when it comes to the vocal work, but he also uses clean vocals which sound as if they’re chanted, which is in keeping with the Pagan vibe I hear in the other elements, drawing the piece together well with underlying aspects that doesn’t necessarily appear as important at first, as beautifully shown on songs like ‘Blood Vaults (II - Our Despots Cleanse the Levant)’, which has a very aggressive tone to it, particularly in those crunchy guitar riffs which feel like they’re grinding my bones as they progress towards their destination. Songs like this also show a balanced rhythm to his work which is also shown on the stirring debut as repetitious riffs flow alongside solos and vice versa. The only area I find that needs some work is the bass. It doesn’t need to be prevalent, but it could be more audible. However, I feel the atmospherics of The Ruins of Beverast may be too grand to allow it to be felt more often. In conclusion to this, I find that this record is just another essential album from one of Germany’s finest artists.

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