The Ruins of Beverast - Unlocking the Ruins

By Dr. Abner Mality

More than six months after I first heard it, I still play "Unlock the Shrine" by the mysterious German project Ruins of Beverast and hear new sounds and ideas in it. With the volume of metal product I listen to, it's hard to remember even the good CDs a couple of weeks after I get them, much less the average and downright worthless offerings. Yet "Unlock the Shrine" remains in my mind, lodged in my consciousness like a dark and evil splinter.

Who or what is responsible for this monumental piece of musical horror, a virtual grand opera of doomy black metal and ambient weirdness? The Ruins of Beverast is the creation of one man, Alexander Meilenwald, who was formerly in the German band Nagelfar (NOT to be confused with the Swedish Naglfar). It would seem impossible for one man alone to be responsible for the diverse and infinitely disturbing soundscape of this album. I made it a priority to seek out and hear from the reclusive Mr. Meilenwald about his project. After a period of silence that had me giving up hope, he was finally gracious enough to answer some questions for Wormwood Chronicles.

Here we open the Shrine and step into the Ruins of Beverast.

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: First, let's describe the life and death of your previous band Nagelfar. What led to the demise of that band?

ALEXANDER MEILENWALD: I basically prefer not to occupy myself much with dead bands, but anyway... our guitarist and co-founder Zorn had obviously recognised a serious break between himself and the rest of the band, that is why he decided to end his activation within the band in April 2002. Besides, I guess he lost most of his energy for a task like this, as I noticed him being unmotivated and sometimes nearly apathetic on the last live gigs. However, when we had founded Nagelfar both of us made an agreement to suspend the band as soon as one of us quits. And that’s what we did.

WC: When did the idea for the Ruins of Beverast arise in your mind?

AM: When Nagelfar broke up I wanted to continue my cooperation with my friend and ex-vocalist Zingultus, but due to some private difficulties on his part this could never happen. I felt the need to create something again. That’s when I started The Ruins Of Beverast and the recordings for a kind of test-rehearsal which became the “Furious Waves Of Damnation”-CD-R later on. The songs are very Darkthrone-inspired because that was what I felt like back then. Anyway, it brought me back to musical creativity after an agonising break.

WC: What's the meaning behind the band's name and also the title of the album "Unlock the Shrine"?

AM: “Beverast” means the same as “Bifröst”, and “Bifröst” represents the giant bridge between the pantheon of Germanic heathen gods and the world of mankind. In ancient Germanic belief the bridge collapses during the process of Ragnarök, the world’s end. It is an intensive vision of the apocalypse, which is to be regarded as a nearly perfect analogy to the musical expression of The Ruins Of Beverast.

“Unlock The Shrine”, the song which gave title to the album, is a very gloomy reflection on the dark side of personality. It is a very personal song, thus I choose not to bore you with my own depths and psychological anecdotes. I will leave it at that.

WC: "Unlock the Shrine" is such a huge concept. Was it something that took many years to conceive or did it burst into your
mind in a flash?

AM: No, it was absolutely not a time-consuming thing, that is what surprised me most. “Unlock The Shrine” emerged from a state of emotional disorientation. It was a strange period of time which developed numerous visions and thoughts in my head, and they seem to have erupted all at once. The whole album was composed and recorded in about 9 months.

WC: I understand that you were responsible for everything on the CD? How much of your life did this undertaking consume?

AM: All instruments on this album were performed by myself. The drums were a difficult task, because I could never rehearse them properly and thus kind of rehearsed them during the recordings. I think one can easily notice that when listening to the album. Anyway, the work on the album robbed three quarters of my spare time. That is absolutely no burden however, because creating music is the thing I can bring up most of my energy for.

WC: Is "Unlock the Shrine" a concept album? It certainly seems to unfold as one huge soundscape.

AM: Not really. I connected each of the tracks, because I thought inserting too many interruptions would kill the atmospheric continuum. I hate these usual “2-second-pauses” between tracks. However, the conceptual structure of the album is not entirely successive. Some interludes are connected to the following song, but the feeling of negativity is the only “thread” that passes through the whole album.

WC: What was the recording process like for this? The record has so many layers. What layer did you start with first and then how did you build upon it?

AM: I started with the drums in the rehearsal-room, which was a really heavy mission as I already mentioned. Recording drums without a leading guitar is fucking exhausting. Anyway, that was the only really unusual matter. As soon as the drums are recorded, the rest is not a serious problem anymore. I continued with guitars, bass and the keyboards/sample section before the vocals finished the whole thing. The non-metal-interludes were composed and recorded at my home. All was set up with a digital recording software that was not really professional but totally suitable for an underground-BM-production.

WC: There are six "ambient" tracks to go with the six "songs". All of these tracks seem to be as carefully constructed as the "regular" songs. How important were these ambient tracks to the concept of "Unlock the Shrine"?

AM: “Unlock The Shrine” elaborates a certain atmospheric structure, a “continuum” as I called it before. These interludes serve to its elaboration. I cannot say why because it was a totally spontaneous and intuitive idea, but somehow I was convinced that the mere sequence of the metal-songs would not be entirely able to build up this atmosphere. I needed some alternations to keep or raise the tension and perpetuate this certain mood.

WC: You use a number of unusual samples, but not in the way most bands do. There's a lot of dialogue buried beneath all the music and sound. How did you go about choosing and arranging the samples and what were some of your sources?

AM: I prefer samples that are interweaved with the music itself, not attached beyond it – because only then they are really able to evolve an effect. I carefully choose the passages which really need a kind of decoration in form of samples, keyboards or other sound effects. The speech samples of course need a contextual reference to the lyrics and main concept of the song, all else is senseless and foolish. I have a proper repertory of movies and other audio-visuals that feature such elements, it is not that hard to include them in the songs.

WC: Percussion seems to play a huge part in the album. There's a lot of pounding drumbeats on tracks like "Skeleton Coast" . "Procession of Pawns" features nerve-wracking repetition that builds a tremendous amount of tension. What part did rhythm and percussion play in the conception of the music?

AM: Rhythm and percussions are the part of a song that is most of all responsible for the dynamics. Whatever lies beyond the rhythm is ineffective as far as it is not emphasized by a certain pulse. If you imagine “Procession Of Pawns” without the kettledrums or the rhythmic voices and only containing the piano, the song would not have any feeling of tension or threatening, it would just bore you to death. The same goes for the middle part of “The Mine” or the end of “Skeleton Coast”, which would totally lose its ritualistic character. The Ruins Of Beverast hardly ever use any “groovy” parts. That is just because they do not hold any atmospheric potential. Thus, the rhythmic elements must emerge from other ideas, and that is what makes the additional percussive elements appear in a rather intensive manner.

WC: "The Clockhand's Groaning Circles" is one of the most awesome tracks I have ever heard! It has such a gigantic, majestic sound. What is this track about? I had a feeling that it was about how time crushes everything in the end?

AM: Well, indeed the lyrics deal with the phenomenon of the proceeding time that makes our existence on this crippled planet purposeless and futile. In the countless periods of time and endless ages of modifications and historical breaks, one’s own little and short period of a lifetime is violently reduced to a meaningless crumb. Anyone or anything that is, was or will ever be existing does not even witness a fraction of universal existence. The total unconsciousness accompanies my own mental existence, and only for a minimal period of time I will awake to exist – that is now. The rapid flow of time will bring me to my end incredibly soon, and at the end of this short blink of my eyes, in the state of senility, I will look back and realise that nothing ever happened, that my existence was futile, and that nothing would have been different without me. It was a strange but intense train of thought I had then...

WC: "The Mine" is another song that really seems to be telling a story. It ends with that final chant of "We await, this our time, when foul screams of agony echo through the Mine." That chant had such a strange sound to it. What was the story being told here?

AM: “The Mine” is an opus that oozes with contempt for the behaviour and habits of the modern ignorant mass of human creatures. The lyrics set up a rather weird scenery of the “survivors” and “poets” that live underground, isolated from the outside world to be separated and not bothered by the faceless and stillborn cattle, and to seek shelter from the imminent act of Earth’s revenge. Awaiting the massive strike of the apocalypse and the foul screams of perishing human shells, they accuse the ignorant and heretically aggressive outside world of having evoked nature’s wrath and world’s end.

WC: It seems that "Unlock the Shrine" is designed to cause unease and a sick feeling in the listener, correct? It has a very claustrophobic feel, like being trapped underground.

AM: The central idea is to let the music paint a picture which one can become a part of; or a movie in which one can take part... whatever you prefer. Being trapped, however, is a good keyword; not only underground, but also in a bleak room, on a vast desolate plain or whatever scenery is given. Probably the future works will even strengthen this effect.

WC: Are you familiar with Blut Aus Nord? That's a band that seems to be working the same general area as Ruins of Beverast.

AM: I only knew their demo tape “Yggdrasil” (which they released under the banner “Vlad”) and their debut album “Ultima Thulée” which is a personal classic for me still nowadays. For some unknown reason I never followed their career further on, probably because I thought they would never be able to exceed this album. A year ago a friend of mine gave me “The work which transforms god” which I think is a highly inspired and original piece of music. I particularly adore the self-willed, bizarre and dissonant guitar work. But still it is not that brilliant as the debut was...

WC: Are there any plans for further works from Ruins of Beverast?

AM: Yes, I am currently occupied with new material that will soon be recorded. I am still planning some split-vinyl-releases, but not all contributions are finished yet. I think there will be a new album at the end of the year (at latest).

WC: Would you consider making it a real band? Or is your vision too personal to be shared by others?

AM: The Ruins Of Beverast won’t include any other full time members, but I could perhaps need help on one aspect or another, we will see what the future brings. For instance, I am rather indecisive regarding live gigs. Nothing of that would be possible without a proper line-up, so...

WC: What sort of music do you listen to outside of black metal? I get a sense of classical German music running through "Unlock the Shrine"?

AM: No. I mean, of course I sampled some classical elements, but I do not regularly listen to classical music. I listen to all kinds of music that deliver any spirit to me... I cannot tell of any preferred genre, apart from metal of course. I listen to some Industrial and Noise as well as to other Electronic/Synth-stuff or Avantgarde/Ritualistic music, even (old) Rock and Pop. The only sorts of music I entirely categorise as rubbish are those connected to any form of HipHop, technoid stuff or NewRock/NuMetal. I guess this is not really surprising...(No, and it makes us kindred souls--Dr. Mality)

WC: Do you keep tabs on the black metal/dark music scene today? Any bands you would recommend?

AM: Well, the involvement at Ván (underground German record label) makes me keep an eye on the newest developments. Actually, I am more into the Doom scene when it comes to current releases, because very few BM-bands really convince with spirit nowadays. I adore the latest releases of Nihil Nocturne, Katharsis, the brilliant demo tape of Teitanblood, Evoken, Wraith of the Ropes, Funeral Procession, Lurker of Chalice, Asunder, Lunar Aurora, Tyranny, The Gault and some others...

WC: Any final words?

AM: Oh, how I hate final words...I truly thank you a lot for your genuine in-depth interest (which is a seldom thing nowadays) instead of the ordinary list of questions.All else that has to be said is done within the lyrics of Beverast. Ahoy.

The Ruins of Beverast Website