Review Summary: The day heaven laments your failure... With noise of rain lashing down upon the impure.
The Ruins of Beverast is the one-man project of Alexander von Meilenwald’s, the creative driving force behind German black metal band Nagelfar. Leading up to when Nagelfar broke up in 2002, their music progressively became darker and less melodic, embracing a more menacing black metal aesthetic. This style reached it's peak in Meilenwald's most personal album to date, his first solo effort Unlock the Shrine
, a claustrophobic exercise in depression dedicated to his friend who passed away 3 years prior to it's release. Continuing on from this release however, his second album Rain Upon the Impure
takes a step back and eases the pressure on the listener, giving the listener time to absorb the album while they listen and ultimately leads to his most fulfilled, complete sounding album to date without sacrificing any of the intensity that defined his past releases.
Meilenwald has created an expansive, stylistically diverse behemoth, introducing significantly more ambiance to the mix and often changing styles to funeral doom, giving a sprawling feel to the album. While his previous album felt like slowly being crushed in a small lightless box, Rain Upon the Impure
feels like you are the stigmatised shepherd in the second track. Slowly trudging uphill over colourless hills, grey swamps with blackened tree stumps below you in every direction. You aren't being crushed like before, yet the vast blackness around you is infinitely more terrifying. It achieves the same feeling of despair, but does so in a very different manner.
Instrumentally this album is astounding. The production found here does not make it easy to identify each individual instrument. The entire purpose of the production is to bury the instruments together in a murky mix, but whenever the layers are stripped away to lead in or out of an ambient section, you can hear the phenomenal talent he wields his instruments with. The guitars always serve the purpose of the song perfectly, and the drums are diverse, never sticking to one style or overstaying their welcome. The blast-beats are perfect; never sounding repetitive and used sparingly enough to have an impact every time they're used. The most impressive facet of the album, however, is undoubtedly the vocals. Whether it is the vicious cackles of an enemy in war (50 Forts Along the Rhine), the tortured howls of a sinner being punished (Soliloquy of the Stigmatised Shepherd), or simply the standard growls and shrieks found in black metal albums, Meilenwald stands alongside the very best vocalists to be found in the genre.
Lyrically the album is standard fare for black metal, however the subject matter unifies the album extremely well. At it's core, each song is about being punished, wishing for respite but knowing that it is impossible. The feeling of the inevitability of a slow and painful death gives a sinister aura to the album, and even though the lyrics are often indecipherable, this mood pervades the music. This is only exacerbated when the only lyrics you can clearly discern are brooding monastic chants and choral hymns saying things like “we learnt that war has become art” or “when the bread is broken, wounds are nailed into your palms”. Though it is nothing special lyrically, the way the lyrics are implemented and their delivery is phenomenal, and this ensures that this doesn't become a pitfall for an otherwise perfect black metal album.
This album epitomises what black metal should be, desperate, crushing and cold. Rain Upon the Impure
will push you through it's eighty minute run time relentlessly, giving you just enough time to catch your breath with it's short ambient sections but never letting you relax, throwing you back in every time you think it's going soft. There is enough variety on display to ensure you are never bored, but it maintains atmosphere perfectly so it still feels coherent. Meilenwald has successfully carried Nagelfar's legacy forward and created the album that everyone said 'could have been' when the band split up. This is a crowning achievement for black metal in the 21st century and a must-have for anybody interested in the genre.