Review Summary: A disturbing, sinister gaze into the depths of atmospheric death
Finland’s Desolate Shrine crept onto the death metal radar about midway through 2011 with their bleak and crushing debut, Tenebrous Towers
, and while the album received moderate acclaim in the underground/blogosphere, the timing of its release did the band no favors. During a year in which extreme metal saw numerous releases push the boundaries in spectacular fashion (Ulcerate’s The Destroyers of All
, Flourishing’s The Sum of All Fossils
and Tombs’ Path of Totality
all come to mind), the band’s debut was somewhat overlooked.
Returning with a new offering less than two years later, Desolate Shrine have crafted a suffocatingly dense slab of death metal that puts them at the forefront of the burgeoning atmospheric death metal scene. Combining traditional death/doom elements with a black metal aesthetic and an ever-so-slight touch of atmospheric sludge, The Sanctum of Human Darkness
is a sadistic trip to the pits of hell.
Swirling guitar riffs, rapid tempo changes and a two-pronged vocal attack (that only adds to the insanity) are filtered through a fuzzy haze of analog sludge, giving the album a feel that’s simultaneously vintage and cutting edge without sounding forced. In fact, that’s the truly amazing aspect of this record – despite all of the vicious death metalling, it just feels effortless (the nearly 55 minute run time flies by in a blur). Hopefully the end-of-year release date doesn’t cause this album to fly over too many heads, because this could very well be the best death metal album of 2012.