On first listen of The Ruins of Beverast new record Blood Vaults – The Blazing Gospel Of Heinrich Kramer (Cryptae Sanguinum – Evangelium Flagrans Henrici Institoris) you pretty much fall in love. On repeated listens however, you find much to dislike about it. It’s too long, there’s too much happening, there’s too much weird stuff going on. While weirdo black metal is great (it really is), and usually the German The Ruins of Beverast are fantastic – see Unlock the Shrine or Foulest Semen of the Sheltered Elite – Blood Vaults feels too ambitious, too overreaching, too bloated. Perhaps if you listen to it sans a few tracks (the run time is one hour twenty minutes) then it’ll feel better but it’s probably best to cut yourself off after “VI: A Failed Exorcism” and then have a cup of tea before heading into the rest. Eighty minutes is a long time to spend with an album and while some records are worth the time investment, you don't feel as though Blood Vaults is really rewarding you. Maybe that's the point?
Sole member Alexander von Meilenwald is definitely some kind of mad genius and Blood Vaults certainly has its moments – opening track “I: Apologia” is a deadly, spoken word piece that sits over odd, minimal chants before “II: Daemon” shimmers into dissonant life. The chants continue and lead into some truly unnerving guitar work and von Meilenwald’s vocals are as devious as they are contrasting. Switching from deep, rumbling tones to rasped and throaty screams, his voice pulses with a steady and unnatural malevolence and the organ/keys that rise up from the miasma are gorgeous and wholly unholy. A current of deep and overwhelming darkness slithers from the pits of hell created and transforms into utter and total hopelessness on “III: Malefica.” This track is beautiful, sad and bruising in its complete woe and is (in this writer’s humble opinion) the greatest work on the album. The funeral doom like progression and despair that is contained on the song is heightened by the use of keys and simple lines of guitar that well with sadness and brim with absolute despondency. It’s an early highlight (lowlight?) and one that the record struggles to come back from although "IV: Ornaments of Malice" does a damn fine job of trying.
“VI: A Failed Exorcism” again slinks with a funereal aspect and the stench of decay is as heady as it is divine. The anti-religious overtones of the work seep into the cracks left by the monumental waves of sound. Passages spoken in Latin add a mysterious and ritualistic element to the album, one which is present throughout and along with the use of rich organs and choral chants, really pushes The Ruins of Beverast into grandiose and spiritual territory. But, it's the latter stages of the album that really drag it down. “VII: Trial” and “VIII: Ordeal” are both short, to the point tracks, but neither of them add much to the flow or the sound of the album. “VIII: Ordeal” fares a little better in terms of instrumentation, but the female vocal that is introduced here feels somewhat out of place despite the themes of the album. “IX: Monument” is, in essence, a great song. It’s winding, full of atmosphere, it feels expansive and dark but at this point it also feels unnecessary. We’ve heard tracks like this already and after the intermission of “VII” and “VIII” it almost feels tagged on. It’s a real shame because The Ruins of Beverast are so much better than this.
6.5 / 10
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