In my Black Metal Monday segments for the mighty Archers’ Guild, I try to stay on top of shit; that is to say, I’d rather review/highlight recent releases than stuff that has been blogged to death by dozens of other metal websites/zines/message board warriors. However, this album slipped through the cracks for me, so here it is: The Ruins of Beverast, “Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite,” released in late 2009 on Ván Records.
A one-man army of darkness hailing from Germany, The Ruins of Beverast specialize in a very evocative, almost cinematic brand of black art. Long songs, meandering structures sometimes with repeating musical motifs, strange samples, choirs, pseudo-industrial “clangs” and “plonks” – these tools are all at Ruins mastermind Alexander von Meilenwald’s disposal. This is a very dense, very long record. The CD version tips the scales at around 80 minutes – the maximum amount of time the format can support – and the double LP is even longer thanks to a nine-minute Tiamat cover! (I would like to hear that cover, but I just have the CD…) Most of the songs are over 10 minutes, and this isn’t always Burzum-esque riff-repetition style black metal. There is a LOT going on in this record, which makes it pretty hard to fathom. I think that’s the idea however. This has the feeling of a musician’s magnum opus, a real labor of love (hate?) and intense creativity. That’s not to say it’s a perfect record, but it does have some pretty incredible and awesome moments.
The music on “Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite” – cool title, eh? – ranges from tremelo-picked blast fests ala old Mayhem, to doomic crawls along the sludgy pits of Hades, but definitely favors the slower tempos. I guess they give the music room to breathe a bit more, though with the claustrophobic atmosphere present here fresh air is a rarity. I find the slow pace pretty cool for the most part, but I wish it were broken up more regularly with faster sections a bit more often to keep it from getting monotonous. The middle of the album sure feels like a trudge with so much slow, doomy stuff, only picking up after about 20 minutes of constant pounding with the second to last track, “Blood Vaults II,” which throttles you with some wild thrash tempos for six minutes before slowing it down again.
The good news is, although the lack of speed is kind of a drag at times, there is always something interesting going on musically. Though the tempo remains in first gear most of the time, the riffing style changes up a lot with some death-doom stuff, some plain slow black metal and some more traditional doom riffs. This guy can really play, and spices things up with interesting leads, solos and guitar licks along with some tasteful drum patterns. The recording is not piss-raw, not too dense, but with enough gray areas to lose yourself in the kind of haze that good atmospheric black metal strives for; I would say the production job is just about perfect here.
The vocals favor low, almost death-metally rasps – not too much shrieking going on – with a lot of clean passages that recall Enslaved. You may notice I’ve been dropping a lot of old Norwegian names in this review, though don’t think this is just a ripoff of that all-too-aped style. Ruins of Beverast has its own thing going – professional, passionate, heavy as a bag of donkey balls (to quote Obituary), and DARK black metal. There are many layers to this record and I think I’ve only really scratched the surface.