The Ruins of Beverast – The Thule Grimoires


The turn of the twenty-first century has seen the emergence of many black metal multi-instrumentalists under various monikers. To pick out a few, you don’t need to look any further than legends like Panopticon, Paysage d’Hiver and Coldworld. And at this point, it’s fair to say this is a braver undertaking when faced with the isolation of lockdown. Despite this, The Ruins of Beverast creator and veteran of black metal, Alexander von Meilenwald, remains keen, releasing another album that clocks in at just over the one-hour mark.

It all begins with ‘Ropes Into Eden’, where Meilenwald introduces the gothic flavour of his latest offering with an interesting combination of black and doom metal. Expect freezing-temperature reverbed riffs trapped in thought loops, with later ambient passages introducing psychedelic voices and spoken-word incantations. ‘The Tundra Shines’ continues in similar style but with warmer melodies, atop martial drums, and boasting a decent vocal performance front to back. In the generous runtime of these tracks, it gives the impression of exploring mysterious sulfuric wastes as noxious green smoke billows from a pit below. This is a slow but strong one-two punch from the first two tracks.

Getting into the meat of The Thule Grimoires, it becomes clear this project explores a different side of The Ruins of Beverast. Tracks take their time to progress and remain unforgiving if you aren’t keen on the main motifs. Take ‘Kromlec’h Knell’ and ‘Mammothpolis’, for example, that seem to over-rely on generic instrumentation mechanically pounding away in swamps of reverb and electronic effects. Here Meilenwald may be gunning for something akin to Swans-style post-rock, but it seems to lack a clear direction and that distinct visceral energy. As a result, the songs can end up feeling weightless and inconsequential.

Unfortunately, this tonal disconnect doesn’t stop here as ‘Anchoress in Furs’ takes an explosive left turn into what sounds like Peking opera vocals. Usually this adventurousness scores points for originality, but the gothic and doom-y atmosphere of the record just reinforces a feeling Meilenwald is pulling these ideas out of a hat. In contrast, ‘Polar Hiss Hysteria’ is almost devoid of anything other than the motions of an acceptable black metal song, and you may find yourself skipping to the end to enjoy the field recordings instead. Thankfully, ‘Deserts to Bind and Defeat’ at least brings some theatre back to the table as Meilenwald delivers a more dynamic and committed vocal performance, reminiscent of Leaving Meaning era Swans with an added black metal sting.

In the reverb mire of The Thule Grimoires, to some first-time listeners the ideas will simply be ungratifying and half-baked as the gothic production struggles to marry effectively with the brighter and more indulgent moments. Saying that, this LP has a lot to look up to, (especially if those are giants donning the cover of 2017’s Exuvia) and we should not forget that The Ruins of Beverast still boast a consistent run of albums.

Maybe for Meilenwald this record is a practise round or a well-deserved victory lap, but it leaves the listener cold and paralysed by lethargy.

JS


Verdict


Release Date: 05/02/2021

Record Label: Van Records

Standout tracks: Ropes Into Eden, Deserts to Bind and Defeat, The Tundra Shines

Suggested Further Listening: The Ruins of Beverast – Exuvia (2017), Urfaust – Der freiwillige Bettler (2011), Leviathan – Massive Conspiracy Against All Life (2008)