PICK OF THE WEEK: Finnish death shadows Desolate Shrine kill on ‘Heart of the Netherworld’

Desolate ShrineWith it being sub-freezing in many parts of the United States, and people seemingly miserable at every turn, perhaps now is as good a time as any for a filthy, damaging death metal record that will just make you feel a whole lot worse when it’s over. It’s time for us all to accept and embrace rock bottom.

Finnish death metal miscreants Desolate Shrine have bombarded our world again, offering up their third full-length record in only five years of existence. That’s not too shabby of a clip. “The Heart of the Netherworld” is their bleakest, most hopeless to date, smothering you in 63 minutes of evil, bad feelings, and enough soot to cake your lungs. But that’s what we who love their death as nasty as possible come to desire, isn’t it? We don’t turn to these sounds because we need a pick-me-up or a reason to feel bright and sunny in the morning. We’re here because we identify with the cacophony of horrors and wish to immerse ourselves in pure negativity, even if only to ensure ourselves we’re not the only ones embracing utter darkness.

Desolate Shrine coverAs bands with a cloak of mystery to them are wont to do these days, your members of Desolate Shrine go by mere initials in this project. LL is in charge of all levels of instrumentation, a yeoman’s effort considering how massive this thing sounds; while RS (Lie in Ruins, Perdition Winds) and ML (Lord of Pagathorn, The Crescent) are in charge of the horrifying vocals you hear. Certainly there is melody to be heard on these seven tracks, two of which are behemoths, but much of what greets you on “The Heart of the Netherworld” is oppressive, massive, and weighs you down like gravity exacting some kind of cruel revenge on your pathetic body. Getting up afterward will not be easy.

Any time a track is labeled “Intro,” usually you can expect a quick, mood-setting cut to get you situated and ready for what’s ahead. Not here. While the first moments are murky and feel like the opening stages of a nightmare, they begin to unload the heavy artillery so your ears are throbbing before they reach “Black Fires of God.” The track grinds open, with riffs boiling and giving off steam, vicious growling making the scene that much more frightening, and dizzying lead guitars that are bound to leave you feeling disoriented. Things begin to feel sweltering toward the end, and the final moments are oppressive and punishing. “Desolate Shrine” feels watery and creepy before the track bursts open and the violence erupts anew. Guitars drizzle like they’re splattering blood everywhere, while the tempo just crushes for the most part, leaving you drowning in mud and gasping for breath. Simply title “Death” lives up to its name, with smeary riffs rolling out over grim vocals and an assault that feels like they’re hacking away with industrial-sized meat cleavers. The riffs dominate, while the vocals trade back and forth between guttural growl and unkempt shrieks, building the intensity until the whole thing hisses out.

The second part of the record contains our two epics, beginning with 14:40 “We Dawn Anew,” a track so compelling the time just flies by. Keys drip, giving off a feel of elegance, and there’s a heavy chill in the air until the song bursts open and begins pouring out its lava. Much of the pace is slow driving and drubbing, as they just thrash away, and at times it feels like the band is forming a vortex and trying to lure you into its void. The song goes clean and cold at one point, returning a feeling of chilling ambiance, but the track explodes again, with mean and callous growling and noise-fed pounding that keeps killing until it all finally fades away. “Leviathan” begins ominously before pushing into a devious groove that feels muddy and abrasive. The growls are coated in blackness, the song is built on massive chugs and carnage, and the song ends with a mind-altering gasp that could feel like it’s triggering an out-of-body experience. The closing title cut runs 12:48 and ignites immediately, with the drums crushing, the riffs just slightly off balance but fiery, and the growls sounding like those that could damage the vocals cords. The track enters a hazy phase, with the vocals registering charnel warbling, and though the band returns to heaviness again, it are these numbing pockets that really grab your attention. The vocals continue to deteriorate into a bloody belch, while the guitars bubble over with doom tar and the finish takes you into a calm corner where you’ll struggle to decide if the beating is over and you survived or if you’re about to succumb to your injuries.

If you were hoping for an early-year ravaging, Desolate Shrine are more than happy to oblige you. “The Heart of the Netherworld” is the band’s most massive, unforgiving effort to date, and there’s barely any room to breathe with all the smoke created by their heathen fires. This band has no interest in your well-being and only are invested in destroying your will. They do that over and over again on this record, and they will absolutely own you once this album comes to an end.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/desolateshrine

To buy the album, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.darkdescentrecords.com/

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