"Blood Vaults: The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer"

By Dr. Abner Mality

When I heard "Unlock The Shrine" from The Ruins of Beverast about 8 or 9 years ago, I was completely and utterly floored. That record remains one of the greatest ever in the realm of extreme music. I considered Ruins of Beverast the logical successor to Celtic Frost and thought their track "The Clockhand's Groaning Circles" one of the five best songs I have ever heard. I still do.

"Unlock The Shrine" has been impossible to live up to. The follow-up "Rain Upon The Impure" was perhaps even more epic, but the horribly bad production drained all power out of it. A crushing disappointment. They more than made up for that with album # 3, "Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite", which boasted the richest, clearest production ever and firmly put Ruins back in the realm of bands to watch. Now 2013 brings us the laboriously titled "Blood Vaults: The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer".

I am starting to detect weakness in The Ruins of Beverast for the first time. I consider this a good record and well beyond most other black metal/doom metal record I hear today, but it is showing some aspects I find troubling. The Ed Repka style comic book cover with a monstrous monk seems very cartoony for the brooding, Gothic kind of band Ruins is. Moreover, the album is filled way past the bursting point with silly distorted monster voices on every track. Not only are they hard to understand, but there's way too much of it, diluting the impact. The production is on the same clear level as "Foulest Semen..." which helps a lot, but now I can't help missing a little of the murk of "Unlock the Shrine".

The tone of this record is very somber. I believe it is the confession of a heretic priest and accordingly, it has a "cathedral-like atmosphere", with sonorous church organ, chanting Latin choirs and an extremely doomy pace. The doom aspects are greater here than on any past Ruins album. When the doom works, it is awesome, bone-crumbling stuff. But some long cuts like "Spires: The Wailing City" and "Monument" are plodding and dragging...they do not keep my interest. This last track is especially uninspiring, as it is the final cut of the album and doesn't provide the massive conclusion that all previous Ruins albums have had.

On the positive side, when the album is at its peak, it shows the magnificence this band is really capable of. "Daemon" and "Ornaments of Malice" are great, powerful epics full of those distorted, heaving and hypnotic riffs that Ruins of Beverast is known for. The brief aggressive cut "Ordeal" has the same kind of bite that Celtic Frost's "Usurper" had so you know how crushing it is. Throughout the album, ROB mastermind Alexander Meilenwald uses an amazing variety of guitar and keyboard sounds to create a dark tapestry of sound.

If this was the first record of a new band, I would consider it very promising. But it is from Ruins of Beverast and must be compared to their past effort. I think everything in their catalogue will pale in comparison to "Unlock The Shrine", including "Blood Vaults..."