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The Ruins of Beverast is an epic one-man project from Alexander von Meilenwald, the former drummer of Nagelfar. Meilenwald’s increasing use of eerie organ over the years is supposed to be unsettling and disturbing, but it just sounds silly to me. And that’s what I was hearing on “Apologia,” the intro track to his new album Blood Vaults – The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer.

Thankfully, there are many songs on Blood Vaults that don’t need the creepy organ. But combined with the ominous chanting, female voices and choirs, the whole album does have an Inquisitorial feel, which is apropos considering that the title alludes to a 16th-century church inquisitor who wrote large portions of the infamous textbook on witch hunting known as the Malleus Maleficarum (“The Hammer of Witches”).

“Blood Vaults” is a tryptich, each part made up of three songs. The structure is as if we are witnessing Heinrich Kramer’s work: The Inquisitor setting the atmosphere of futility and doom; the victim’s despair and desparation; and the third act, the inquisitor’s controlled but blinding rage coming to its inevitable conclusion.

The first part is incredible—heavy, rumblings of stone, especially the 9-minute track “Daemon,” blending sheer brutality of black metal riffs and death metal vocals with chanting choirs. But again, the organ breaks can be a bit much.

Part two starts with “Spires, The Wailing City”, which runs more than 13 minutes. The tracks in this section start out slow, but upon closer listen there’s more movement and depth than it first appears. Throughout this section we get more growling organs and more infernal chanting. Track six, “A Failed Exorcism”, lasts for 15-plus minutes and is stretched out thin, leading to a general sense of the fatigue that the Inquisitors and their victims would have felt. I felt a bit of it after listening.

The final movement opens with the choir and a panic of noise. The tortured witch pleads, prays, and confesses, and she seems to vindicate her tormentors with the line “Inflamed by my Daemon/No ordeal shall I fear”.

The finale comes with the 12-minute “Monument”. It’s foggy. At this point we know what’s happened to the witch. Just as that reality is setting in, a voice drones, “Drink the blood of Christ, eat his flesh”. There we are, snapped right back to attention again.

The spoken Latin on several tracks adds to the atmosphere. Over all of this ghastly blackened doom is Meilenwald’s gruff voice. I like that he discards the traditional expectations of black metal song structure, while still maintaining an ambience of arcane mystery. His songs explore some of the deepest, darkest places with always a touch of beauty, fear, and respect.

Vanessa Salvia

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