The Ruins of Beverast – Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite
The Ruins of Beverast has won nearly universal acclaim since Alexander von Meilenwald (formerly of Nagelfar) started the project in 2003. The solo outfit’s previous two releases, Unlock the Shrine and Rain Upon the Impure, were hailed for their musical innovation and conceptual density. Innovation, however, should not read in the boilerplate way it has come to signify. Admittedly, Ruins of Beverast doesn’t fit into the usual black metal boxes. It obsesses over biblical and occult imagery. It is not particularly Satanic, pagan, bestial, or depressive. Nonetheless, Ruins of Beverast is not a blind experiment in genre or technique. While it contains elements of the post- and prog-rock that bands like Nachtmystium or Enslaved deploy, they never usurp the bleakness of its vision.
Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite (Ván, 2009) is its third album. As on the previous two, it works on a massive scale. Tracks are long and nuanced. “Atmosphere” is not mere shorthand for tremolo picking or keyboards, but a fitting description of how songs are built. Lyrics wind obsessively around subjects without touching down, and sounds are carefully layered — see “The Restless Mills” and its background pulse of industry, the main melody by turns triumphant, tragic, and menacing. Jaweh dies, but the reaction is ambivalent: “Jaweh, you were the breeder of a pest cocoon / And whatever your gift was / Dreadful were the mills that crushed it.” Foulest Semen is unforgiving but mourns its incapacity to forgive.
Such moral ambivalence sets Ruins of Beverast apart from other post-rock-influenced bands. Sometimes its melodic doom riffs recall those of Pelican. But Pelican’s music is so clean it evokes a world wrapped in plastic. This product is besmirched; long segments are nauseous, dissonant, punctuated by Celtic Frost lopes. Sounds descend like ancestral memories. Ragged proclamation interrupts clean singing. Melodies are beautiful not in spite of, but because of their content: human history as endless tragedy, existence blindly pursued, death arriving in slow but inevitable waves.