Desolate Shrine: Tenebrous Towers

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Desolate Shrine: Tenebrous Towers
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Black Metal, Death Metal
Hammer of Hate Records
May 31st, 2011
Release length: 46:22
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With the way the underground Black Metal scene is, typically if there’s a band that is getting massive hype from the fans of the raw and underground scenes, and you can only find information about a current or upcoming full-length, then the band has traditionally been in existence for a while and gradually won fans over through releases and songs there’s no record of anywhere in the world, such as strictly limited to ten or less demo recordings. However, that isn’t the case here. Desolate Shrine has set the underground Black Metal world aflame with their music, and their debut full-length recording for Hammer of Hate Records, Tenebrous Towers, really shows a great deal of promise for this newer act and their blend of blackened Death Metal.

Desolate Shrine really captures the best of both worlds here. The main foundation of the songs seem to be Death Metal compositions, though there’s no denying that they are some Black Metal influences thrown in for good measure, really making it somewhat hard to distinguish which is which at times, especially since many of the traditional concepts and progressions in Black Metal music aren’t necessarily there. The vocals, however, seem to be one of the staple elements of the Black Metal style to remind, being a traditional rhaspy wail one might expect from any band of that style, though some tracks do feature very impressive gutterals, such as “Mouths of Baal”. This song clearly has some more common Black Metal structuring going on, but it’s very hard to really pick out when the band is focusing on being that style, or Death Metal thanks to the insane amount of distortion and heaviness that makes this song sound devastating and simply soul crushing. The slower droning pace of the song also adds to the overall atmosphere, and can send you off into some sort of hypnotic state with how the band handles the music, of the recording, making it more punishing or intimidating then had it been performed any faster. This hellish track stands out thanks to all of this, and really shows the band’s abilities to weave both styles together superbly into a pattern that doesn’t sound like every other band out there working these two approaches to music. Of course, this doesn’t stop here, as the first track, “The Smell of Blood and Iron” really delivers another bludgeoning performance by the group, but of a faster speed and birthed more out of what sounds like chugging Death Metal riffs coupled with the kind of chords that seem to be played in a more Black Metal fashion, though taking a severe pummeling from the crushing distortion and overall sound.

The production on Tenebrous Towers is also worth taking note. The quality of the material is pretty clear, but still a little raw and seems to use a strong echo effect on the vocals that makes them sound a little more hollow at times, which is really stunning due to how deep the gutterals wind up getting, and how rich they can become. This could just be from layering vocals, but it all gives off a nice haunting vibe to the music, such as with “The Brightest Night”. The slower pace and discernable Black Metal influences to the crushing Death Metal performance and music really makes the track sound melancholic and feel as if it’s bathed in moonlight from the most sinister of nights, cascading you in a moonlit graveyard in the middle of Fall with wolves howling, an ambience brought on by some of the wails sounding like howling thanks to this echo effect as the winds licks and stings your skin, pummeling away at you as the song continues build up with fire and intensity.

While most of the album has a stronger Death Metal vibe that is laced with Black Metal, there are times where the band’s Black Metal roots show through a little stronger. “Chaos and Wrath”, for example, has a stronger second generation Black Metal vibe to the song, and it sounds fantastic with the heavy distortion, and with the way the band handles this song, the bass becomes a little more audible and really plays a stronger roll, though it’s presence could be felt in previous tracks. The only odd element to this track, which appears at other times on this recording too, is the vocals come off more in a Sludge style, more aggressive but in a shouting manner that feels restrained to come off as a traditional wailing approach with more aggression and anger behind it, and also bordering into gutterals sometimes. The thing is, these vocals sound amateurish at times, and can come off a little like the microphone is being cupped, though it’s not. They feel out of place on this track, and though they match the intensity, they just don’t match the music in general. This winds up literally being the only let down of the recording, which is bad considering how fantastic a job the band has done up to this pooint in keeping the two styles working together, and just the intensity of it all. Sure, there could have been a little more focus on creating atmosphere-rich tracks like “The Brightest Night” too instead of just that one haunting melancholic track, though “Chaos and Wrath” does feature a bit of a haunting guitar solo.

For a newer band on the scene, Desolate Shrine does not at all come off like one. The music throughout the recording is brutal, and seemlessly moolds together the best of the Black and Death Metal styles to create a seemlessly blasphemous full-length debut recording. There’s a reason this band is quietly taking the underground world by storm, and it’s their solid music they seem to perform effortlessly. If you have yet to experience this group, then now is your chance to get in on the ground floor and watch this band that shows plenty of potential continue to grow and become a bigger monster int he Metal world.

01. The Smell of Blood and Iron – 6:44
02. No Place for a Human – 5:03
03. Mouths of Baal – 7:37
04. The Brightest Night – 8:20
05. Chaos and Wrath – 6:08
06. Born to Lose One’s Way – 6:42
07. Burning Devotion – 5:49
Overall Score: 9/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Hammer of hate Records.