September 15, 2014

Unlocking the Shrine: A look at The Ruins of Beverast

Written by Aaron Sullivan.

For me Germany is a country that I find synonymous with quality Metal. There may be no band to exemplify that better than The Ruins of Beverast. The brainchild of Alexander von Meilenwald, Ruins is an Atmospheric Blackened DOOM monster. For just a bit of background and perhaps a better understanding of the mindset of the artist; the word Beverast is von Meilenwald's own derivation of the word "Bifröst" influenced by the old Norse term for the bridge between Midgard, the realm of the humans, and Asgard, the realm of the gods. Now this is not that he sings about Norse mythology. But when one imagines the mindset of people as they see the ruins of what would connect them to the heaven they hope for in death, and what might await them on the earth they have been forsaken to. You begin to see what dark and bleak themes await the listener.

His first full length release was 2004’s Unlock the Shrine. The album establishes early on his penchant for creating atmosphere. It opens with slow turning guitars and keyboards along with audio clips from the 1987 movie The Believers, a movie about a New York psychiatrist who finds that a voodoo cult, which believes in child sacrifice, has a keen interest in his own son. These are the type of dark themes that will become a Ruins trademark. One thing that is a huge difference with this album, are the interludes between songs. While not something he gets rid of entirely, on later albums they are a bit shorter and the song lengths are longer. The stand out tracks for me are "The Clockhand's Groaning Circles". It has this great riff that sticks in your head and a great doomy middle. Also "Summer Decapitation Ritual"; starting with it’s bombastic opening and then shifting into this almost Wagnerian middle before returning to it’s Black Metal roots. All will become Ruin standards. A fantastic debut.

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With 2006’s Rain upon the Impure two things immediately stand out. One, the the production is much rawer and two, the songs are much longer. Neither of which is a bad thing for me at all. The songs are so raw they feel almost claustrophobic, as there is little room to breathe in between instruments. This only enhances the dark and ominous feeling that the Ruins experience offers. The songs lengths (none of which are under 10 minutes minus two small interludes) can be seen as daunting for some. Each their own mini epic. But once the songs start the time is never dragging. He keeps things fresh by changing tempos in the songs. A song like "Soliloquy of the Stigmatised Shepherd" starts as a funeral dirge for the first seven minutes before going into an all out rager, then back into the blackened doomyness he does so well. The added Gregorian like chants towards the end only continue to add to the overall atmosphere. While picking a favorite of all his albums is no easy task, this may be the one for me.

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Live at maschinenfest 2013. Photos by s.alt

He returned in 2009 with Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite. This serves as a great mix of the two first album. It has the better production and smaller interludes of the first album but the song lengths and layered elements of the second. There even seems to be a pattern of short interlude, medium length song, then epic song. In a way it really helps with the flow of the album. Songs like "Mount Sinai Moloch" take all that he has learned over the years and all that he done on record and puts it into one song. The Black Metal, the DOOM, the atmosphere. He is really at the top of his game with this album.

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The fourth album, Blood Vaults - The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer, was among my favorites of 2013. This album finds Alexander von Meilenwald sound even more polished (or as polished as underground Black Metal gets). But this is not a bad thing. In fact I think it helps. Though I love the rawness of his older albums, the better production does nothing to lessen the overall product. What it does do is make the layers more evident to the listener. Songs are still epic and dark. Exploring all the elements that make up this bands music. The album and lyrics are inspired by German inquisitor Heinrich Kramer’s work about witches and sorcerers known as the Malleus Maleficarum, a concept album if you will. With this album he proved he has found his niche and is experimenting within it.

Ruins albums are ones to sit and listen to. They are long, all over one hour in length, and all their own adventure into Alexander’s dark world. But for those who are willing to take the journey, the rewards are worth it. Because of how diverse and layered each of his albums are I find new things in them with each listen. There is a beauty in his darkness, and the albums transport you to his dark vision like few artist can. One man Black Metal is not rare. But most is minimalistic basement projects and few have the weight of Ruins. Furthermore many one man bands begin to feel stagnant over time. This has certainly not been the case with Ruins.

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