The Ruins of Beverast – Exuvia [Album Review]

The Ruins of Beverast is a band I have been into since around 2009 when I first discovered their (his) second album, ‘Rain Upon the Impure.’ Essentially TROB is a one-man band, fronted by Alexander von Meilenwald, former drummer of the German black metal band Nagelfar.  Since its inception in 2006, TROB has released 5 full-length albums.  The musical style definitely has its roots in black metal, but also incorporates elements of old school death metal, funeral doom, prog, and psychedelic.

Exuvia‘ is the newest release and this record continues to expand upon the aforementioned blend of styles.  First off, this is very dark and disturbing stuff for the average person.  When my girlfriend hears me listening to it, she worries that there’s something wrong with me.  It’s definitely not for the casual ear or really any rational human being for that matter. This shit is fucking insane.  But if that’s what you’re into, then this is some of the best out there.

At its base, the music here is ambient black metal focused on building a sense of atmosphere for the listener.  The album consists of only six tracks that each range between about ten to fifteen minute lengths.  Each song takes you on a journey that, if you allow them to, will tap into your sense of imagination and transport you to a dark setting somewhere to experience something evil, frightening, or despairing.  This is achieved through song structures that don’t follow any typical sort of format.  No verse, chorus, verse, chorus structure to be found here.  The songs flow through a labyrinth of sounds, moods, and tempos to take the listener on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.  Sonically, von Meilenwald is a master of creating this dynamic, atmospheric journey through the combination of heavily-distorted, downtuned guitars, clean tones, keyboards, versatile drumming techniques, sampling, and of course, vocals.

Vocally, von Meilenwald is a step above his peers as he is able to incorporate multiple different styles brilliantly.  At any moment, he is able to seamlessly shift between death metal growl, black metal cackle, and church-like chanting.  The lyrics are interesting but mostly unintelligible.  This doesn’t take anything away from the music, however, but if you are curious what’s being said, you’ll just have to read the lyric sheet.

The first song is “Exuvia.”  This one is an over fifteen-minute intense ayahuasca trip in the middle of an open desert during a dark, tribal ritual being performed by an evil shaman – or at least that’s what I imagine listening to it.  It starts off with an eerie keyboard melody and tribal chanting.  The drums, bass, and guitars then begin to fade in like a freight-train from hell to join the mix.  The pace changes a few more times throughout with a doomy, chanting vocal climax toward the middle.  Following this is a beautifully melodic, mournful-sounding guitar solo reminiscent of early Asphyx.

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The second song is “Surtur Barbaar Maritime.” It starts of doomy and slow with a heavy distorted guitar riff and keyboard.  The pace then picks up for some tremolo-picked riffing and cackling vocals.  It then shifts into a military march style, snare-heavy drumbeat with vocal chanting and an eerie, dissonant keyboard melody.  Death growls are added to accompany the mix until finishing the section with a pained scream that shifts into blast beats and tremolo picking, then shifts back to the previous style again.  About three quarters through, the song breaks down to a mellow, clean tone guitar riff with some spoken words before exploding into the climax, shifting into more blast beats and tremolo picking with a meandering guitar lead.  In general, this song has a more war-like vibe to it, ranging from despair to hostility, to reflection.

Next is “Maere (On a Stillbirth’s Tomb)” – one of my personal favorites of the record. This one is dark, doomy, evil, and creepy.  After the intro builds up, the main section comes in with a slow, downtuned funeral doom riff with growling vocals accompanied by a heavily-effected, ethereal sounding vocal melody to add to the eeriness.  The drums are exceptional on this track.  They are understated but powerful – the sound of the bass drum really punches through clearly adding an extra layer of muscle to the mix. Vocally, the trade-off between death metal growl and black metal cackle is utilized masterfully to create something truly wicked.  The climax comes following a chilling repeated scream of “astray, astray, astray!”  The tone shifts into dark psychedelia with tripped-out vocals, industrial/sludge riffing, and then a Jerry Cantrell-worthy guitar lead to close out the song.

Song four is “The Pythia’s Pale Wolves.”  This track starts off with a mid-tempo pace and sound that feels like you’re a wolf fleeing from a band of hunters as you hear them faintly playing their bagpipes in the distance.  The percussion sounds here even lend to the impression of a wolf’s breath as he runs.  The most interesting part of the song is the climactic build-up section toward the middle.  The drums really stand out while a simple guitar riff plays along with a female vocal, seemingly conjuring an evil spirit.  The pace gradually increases and the voice gets more intense until finally climaxing into a blood-curdling scream of terror as if something horrifyingly unimaginable has just been summoned. The final section of the song seems to depict the summoned being awakening, gaining its power, and then brutally destroying its victims.

Towards Malakia” comes next.  This is probably the weakest song of the album, but still an enjoyable listen.  The first half of the over nine-minute track feels somewhat repetitive and droning with a constant double-bass rhythm and simplistic guitar riff.  It’s mostly instrumental with vocals being sprinkled in sporadically throughout.  The tone is more mournful and slow until about three-quarters of the way through where it switches to a more aggressive one with blast beats and tremolo picking.  It closes out with some tribal chant sampling.

Lastly is “Takitum Tootem (Trance).”  It’s a brutal, industrial/grindcore jam with a menacing riff intertwined with death growls and tribal chanting.  The same basic melody runs throughout the song while additional elements are added on gradually.  The song has enough interesting elements to make it not so blatantly noticeable that it is very repetitive.

Overall, this is an excellent album and I recommend it for any metal fan to at least give it a try to decide whether or not it’s your cup of tea.  I’ve easily listened to this record more than twenty times before writing this review.  I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of the black metal genre in general.  Since having discovered TROB, I’ve gone back and listened to other black metal bands to see if I could find anything else I enjoy comparably, but unfortunately nothing else seems to measure up to this.  This music is in a class of its own.

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