Precise and painstakingly pieced together, an extraordinary piece of work…
Review by Jason Guest
Release: 13 January 2015
Two vocalists, one instrumentalist, Finland’s Desolate Shrine appeared out of nowhere in 2011 with Tenebrous Towers, their debut album a defiant declaration of their devotion to atmosphere-heavy blackened death metal. With an omnipotent oppression across the blackened barrage, Desolate Shrine’s debut was swathed in moonlit abhorrence, the experience of which was overwhelming, its density a potent portent of what was to come from this excellent band. December 2012 and album number two, The Sanctum of Human Darkness, saw the band pushing deeper into the darkness with complex compositions that were as highly evolved as they were brutal. With two such diabolical and dynamic albums to their name already, The Heart of the Netherworld has a lot to live up to. And not only does it do so, but it surpasses both.
Multi-instrumentalist LL’s compositional skills have improved no end. That’s not to imply that they were in any way poor on the previous albums, but here the tracks and the album as a whole has a more coherent feel to it. Taken individually, each track is a remarkable piece of work; taken together, the album plots an enthralling arc. After the mounting darkness of the ‘Intro’ ominously foreshadowing what is to follow, ‘Black Fires of God’ is the embodiment of death metal defiance. Resonating of old school ferocity, from here on in, the album becomes increasingly opaque and consuming.
The dynamics of the ten-minute ‘Desolate Shrine’ are that of a landscape strewn with as much despair and distress as it is malevolence and mystery. Where ‘Death’ disorientates with its multi-layered and merciless attack, the soft yet no less penetrating piano that opens the near-fifteen-minute ‘We Dawn Anew’ ushers in beautifully blended atmospherics and aggression, the depths of this vast track menacing and bleak. And with ‘Leviathan’ and the might of the thirteen-minute title track to close the album, Desolate Shrine find themselves with a serious problem: where will they go next?
With tracks between four and fifteen minutes long, ne’er a moment is wasted and ne’er a note is superfluous. As darkly oppressive and intensely heavy as its predecessors, with the dual vocals and the instrumentation perfectly balanced across seven superbly crafted tracks, The Heart of the Netherworld is an album much bigger than its immense parts. Precise and painstakingly pieced together, this is an extraordinary piece of work.
9 out of 10
- Black Fires Of God
- Desolate Shrine
- We Dawn Anew
- Heart Of The Netherlands