The Ruins of Beverast continue making challenging, provoking black metal on expansive ‘Exuvia’

Most bands make records. Others seem to make movies or major productions that go above and beyond putting on an album and digesting music. Alexander von Meilenwald is one of those artists who use his records as a means to go beyond mere black metal and into the scariest reaches of the past and his own mind as a creator.

His project The Ruins of Beverast long has stretched past being an ordinary band. Each time out, von Meilenwald puts you through an experience you can’t get with other bands. Last time he delivered a full-length opus, it was 2013’s “Blood Vaults – The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer,” a piece about the German inquisitor who spearheaded the extermination of witches and witchcraft in the 1400s. Now, he’s back with another head-pushing piece “Exuvia,” a 67-minute record that takes its name from the shed exoskeleton left behind by many earthly creatures after moulting. But the record also takes this concept a little further, imagining the music as a lethal bacteria designed to infiltrate mindless beings and call forth a cleansing spirit from nature itself. It’s a little less of a story or exposé and more of a cry to have the pestilent nature in which we’re ensconced be cured. The music itself sounds darkly spiritual at times, with the tribal-style chants and the machine-like droning stretches, but it also delivers absolute demolition. We’re come to expect that from Ruins, and this album delivers.

The title track starts things, a 15:27 mauler that starts with strange chants and cold guitars before wild growls join the fray, and a stormy assault spirals into the void. Weird calling goes on behind the wall of sound, while hypnotic playing captures your mind and drives you toward a cleaner portion. Warm soloing arrives, while operatic calls and the track’s ever-flowing spine stretch and haunt until the end. “Surtur Barbaar Maritime” is scary and leans toward goth melodies before pushing open and making way for creaky growls. Weirdness dominates, as usual, as wild howls and complete chaos do battle before the track goes colder. Things fire up again later, while fiery growls and a mesmerizing outro increase the hypnosis. “Maere (On a Stillbirth’s Tomb)” sounds like a horror show from the start, as clean guitars snake their way through, and slow, grinding death chews at the flesh. There are some strange progressions here, as well as a deep dip into psychedelics, before the ferocity makes a return, and the track feels like it’s pushing through a mist. Gothy guitars re-emerge, as the song bleeds into its corrosive finish.

“The Pythia’s Pale Wolves” is another epic at 14:34, as dissonant sounds and cloudy bagpipes give things a post-Apocalyptic feel. Detached singing and odd melodies combine, while industrial-friendly noise strikes and coats the scene with soot. The track ramps up and adds blood and concrete to its assault, while a female voice calls over the din, making things seem a bit like early Celtic Frost. Animalistic shrieks then tear out of their corner, while gritty playing, beastly roars, and a static storm make up the terrifying final minutes. “Towards Malakia” is tribal and spiritual at first, as heavy trippiness becomes a main ingredient of the song. The track sprawls and hulks along, with mystical melodies and abrasive growls penetrating and punishing. Warbling singing folds into the piece, as trancey melodies and chants take the song to its end. Closer “Takitum Tootem! (Trance)” plays like the strange cousin from the “Takitum” EP released late last year. The guitars are hazy, while the growls dig deep into the earth and swim through the molten core. Scary-sounding synth, a wave of chants, and spacey strangeness hover over and disappear along with the song, leaving you enveloped in your dreams.

Von Meilenwald’s art continues to devastate and prod the soul and mind, which “Exuvia” nails completely. This band has stood out from most of black metal’s cesspool from the start, and nearly 15 years after this project started, it keeps challenging and digging up the darkest elements of life and society. This album is an experience in and of itself, and you’re going to need to devote time and thought to what you just witnessed when the music finally relents.

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