The Ruins of Beverast

Unlock the Shrine

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Almost inevitably, when it's associated with popular music, the term "progressive" suggests perfectionism of performance and clarity of sound, but then along comes Germany's The Ruins of Beverast to upend such conventions with black metal that's simultaneously adventurous in structure and raw in sound. Released in 2004 following an extensively named demo (The Furious Waves of Damnation) a year earlier, debut album Unlock the Shrine alternates guitar-and-blastbeat-dominated onslaughts like "Euphoria When the Bombs Fell" and "Summer Decapitation Ritual," with synth-based, often ambient or industrial experiments such as "Skeleton Coast," "Procession of Pawns," or "Cellartunes," and, finally, multi-faceted epics in "Between Bronze Walls," "The Mine," and the title track. One-man mastermind Alexander von Meilenwald flits between crusty death/black metal growling and mewling whines of torment as needed, and the guitar tones throughout are kept as deliberately fuzzy as the left speaker channel during Tony Iommi's solo for "Paranoid." You serious metalheads know what sound we're talking about. Or if you don't know it -- as well as a host of more extreme metal bands in the years between -- you may not even want to bother venturing through the Ruins of Beverast. Then again, no amount of grime or fuzz can disguise the hypnotic, nightmarish majesty of standout "The Clockhand's Groaning Circles" -- reason enough, perhaps, to risk a stroll within the broken walls of this memorable and unique-sounding album.

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