Back in 2013 when Ván Records unveiled the lead single from The Ruins of Beverast’s fourth album “Blood Vaults – The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer,” I was parsing through my copy of R.L. Stevenson’s famed ‘Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’. Reading through it and listening to “Malefica” together, the lead single off their album, held me in complete thrall. There was a strange eerie synergy, the corrupted choral chants of “Malefica’s” intro melding seamlessly into Dr. Jekyll’s transformation into the proverbial ‘other’, that darkness incarnate of yore. Perhaps it is an allusion to the eternal duality in man, the central theme of Jekyll and Hyde, and the strange resonance it has with Heinrich Kramer as a holy man but also somebody who penned the insidious Malleus Maleficarum (the text that served as a guide to torturing women in the name of witchcraft). The book is of course a constant topic of interest to most of metaldom, least of which is the wonderful Pestilence classic of the same name. Main man Alexander von Meilenwald attributed the album as a “…a sarcastic evaluation of Kramer’s principles, and of course the argumentation that follows.”
And it is also how his latest work “The Thule Grimoires” pans out. I almost picture Alex prying open a grimoire, slowly leafing through its contents, barely able to hold the fell magic and stygian glyphs within. The musty smell of it all, entrancing and yet harking back to visions as Lovecraftian as they come. Perhaps that is what this record is. Its brooding.. long and lumbering, and yet thoroughly entrancing. That brooding aspect of this release comes from the deep gothic influences which have progressively appeared over TRoB’s, by now, sufficiently large oeuvre. Take for instance the lead single, “Kromlec’h Knell,” when Alex sings in a voice not dissimilar to Peter Steele’s (of Type O Negative fame) characteristic deep baritone voice, intonating both anguish and contemplation in the same breath….
“Speaks of golden tragedies
Of exulting dispossession
Fleers at forfeited reincarnation”
Preceded by an absolutely beautiful melodic lead, nonetheless.
Its these moments of intense emotive capture, peppered throughout the album, that lulls the listener into a deep introspective phase, fleetingly, only to be pulled back into the throes of reality by the more sinister riffs that follows. This gothic and more doomier strain in the music has been something that TRoB’s been toying with for a long time now. Perhaps it was more prominent on their 3rd release “Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite” – evoking a sense of calculated gloom that I’d say was more prominent in “Monotheist” era Celtic Frost or in its later Triptykon incarnation. But here it’s the melody that places this band a cut above the rest (listen to the melody at the 3:30 minute mark in TRoB’s “God’s Ensanguined Bestiaries“). They are meticulously placed between contrasting motifs, in such a way that it elevates its reception, like a sliver of light escaping through an obsidian sky. Ultimately, this is also a record accentuated further by that sense of forlornness that has captured us all in the wake of this god forsaken pandemic. Personally, this album has been an anodyne of sorts for me. The oppressiveness coupled with that sparse yet potent melody, paints far too clear a picture of real life.
Rating – 4.5/5