Sunday, February 8, 2015

Desolate Shrine - The Heart of the Netherworld

Snoring through Wonka's Boat to Hell

Eh, all that can really be said here is that Desolate Shrine are fairly decent at a fairly decent style and that's really it.  This'll be a short one because despite the album's 60+ minute runtime, you really only get one musical idea.  If you've heard this style of black/death metal that's gotten pretty popular lately, you've heard Desolate Shrine before.

The Heart of the Netherworld isn't a bad album, and I really like some of the elements they tried working with, particularly the very long songs (apart from the intro, nothing is shorter than six minutes and the average length is probably somewhere around nine minutes), and I like that they don't pad out the runtime with spooky atmospheric parts or anything.  They just blast from minute one and never stop.  It's a very filthy, high octane ride through dark, twisted corridors, and with better songwriting I think this could really stand out in the same way Bolzer has.  Now, I'm not much of a Bolzer fan for the same reason (a couple great riffs here and there amidst a mostly plateaued experience), but both bands do the one thing they do fairly well.  I can't really pick out highlights because of the plateau problem I mentioned, but it's a fairly solid romp.  No song is going to dip below "pretty okay", and if you're a marked fan of the style then you'll likely lap this up like a thirsty dog.  But for somebody like me who craves a little bit more variety between songs unless that one idea just absolutely blows me away, this leaves me feeling kind of cold.

That said, coldness is definitely something the band seems to be aiming for, though in a different capacity.  The tone of everything is very distant and alien despite the upfront and punishing nature of the music, and the effect would be cool if it had any smattering of originality behind it.  It might be unfair, but I think that's Desolate Shrine's biggest problem, their timing was just a bit off.  The Heart of the Netherworld was released during such a groundswell of albums in this style that it manages to ride the wave of hype and good will, but not early enough to really stand out in any way thanks to them not really producing any new ideas.  "We Dawn Anew" knocks the tempo down to a sickly crawl, but that one churning number still manages to just blend into the white noise that the rest of the album produces.  Basically it's a Dark Descent release, that's it.  I pick on the label a lot because it's just sort of an easy target thanks to their visibility and rabid fanbase, but really and truly they've never released a bad album (apart from Emptiness's Nothing but the Whole, which I think is just awkward and unfocused, but I'm in a massive minority on that one), but this, just like most of their oeuvre, is a distant, twisted album full of dissonant morbidity that just ends up falling by the wayside since strong songwriting seems often neglected over an overwhelming atmosphere.  And that's what this is, it's overwhelming in its darkness but the meat is undercooked and bland.  It's worth at least a cursory listen and it's far from being shitty, but it's background black/death in the grand scheme of things.  Behemoth may mostly kinda suck but at least they know how to grab your attention.  Desolate Shrine doesn't.

The cover art fucking rules though, so there's that.

RATING - 60%

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