Review by Paul Castles
Opening with a twisted torment of Latin text read against a distant backdrop of chanting monks, Blood Vaults elevates the sinister and the savage to a whole new level. This innovative album is likely to cause you more sleepless nights than the latest Stephen King novel or blood splattered movie remake. What makes this release all the more praiseworthy and remarkable is the discovery that The Ruins of Beverast is in fact a one-man operation. The mysterious Alexander von Meilenwald has a past steeped in the deepest black metal, having nobly carried the drumsticks with German warriors Nagelfar for a decade. These days he is a solitary figure, lurking in the coldest crypts. On Blood Vaults he sings, if that is the right word, and plays all the instruments. Such ventures have been attempted before with the absence of any live shows always something of a drawback. But von Meilenwald successfully tested the waters when The Ruins of Beverast performed at the esteemed Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands earlier in the year, since when sporadic European dates have been fulfilled.
After its oppressive opener ‘Apologia’, the Ruins really start to rattle on the second track Daemon, which more than lives up to the Satanic songtitle. Switching the tempo seamlessly, there’s far too much going on to take in with just a cursory listen. You must detach yourself from your electronic friends and let the paganistic qualities get under your skin and into your blackened soul. ‘Malefica’ is the first of the four 10-minute-plus tracks, a tortured episode in which a simple yet entrancing riff eventually finds itself surrounded and then swallowed up by a great cacophonous rumbling, von Meilenwald’s rasping vocals enter at the halfway point as the sound spirals almost out of control against a dissonant siren.
The twisted teutonic tones of von Meilenwald signal the start of yet another compelling piece in ‘Ornaments in Malice’ a riveting journey in which the savage barbed mutterings are delivered above an absorbing ambient landscape that plunges ever deeper into a crumbling chamber of dense doom. An anguished guitar solo, every note painfully plucked, opens up ‘Spires, The Wailing City’ which meanders at funereal pace, gradually distorting itself into an edifice of horror before von Meilenwald settles down behind the drum kit to remind us of where it all started back in the distant past with Nagelfar.
The album’s longest track (at just over 15 minutes) ‘A Failed Exorcism’ teases the darkest recesses of your mind permeated briefly by a disconcerting rhythmic religious chant. ‘Trial’ and then ‘Ordeal’ are more bitesized snacks, with the latter also warmed briefly by a female voice, but the cragged claw of Beverast still firmly has you within its grip. ‘Monument’ eventually draws a dark veil over proceedings and is another dragged out chapter of doom, that flickers sporadically like a flame struggling to stay alive, but is ultimately happy within itself, just crawling through the cesspit of life and all its banalities against a crushingly barren background over which von Meilenwald utters yet more persecuted swathes of convoluted Latin incantations.
The album’s subtitle is a reference point to the infamous medieval torturer Heinrich Kramer who apparently took unparalleled delight in creating ever more sadistic ways to kill off 15th century witches. If Alexander the Great wanted to capture something of that narcissism on this captivating collection of songs then it is an aim he has certainly achieved with this monolithic majestic masterpiece. Although a work of such devastating demonic destruction may prove a shade too intense, even for some black metal followers, if you can cope with a headlong drop into the abyss with scant chance of any sanctuary then Blood Vaults may be a journey you’re ready to take.
9 out of 10
- Ornaments on Malice
- Spires, The Wailing City
- A Failed Exorcism