Finland has always pioneered various forms of disturbing, unsettling death metal. Demilich, Demigod, Convulse, and Adramalech have gone on to inspire waves of death/black metal bands far beyond Finland’s borders. Desolate Shrine is very much a different kind of beast, equal parts black metal and death metal, with the crushing weight of doom metal and disturbing flourishes of unhinged dissonance and chaos. Their fourth full-length album finds the band refining and evolving their sound by exploring old influences in new ways on their best album to date.
One of the striking ways in which “Deliverance from the Godless Void” represents a re-examination and improvement over their previous sound is that, where their previous albums were very much about focused on atmosphere and feel as both the means and the end, “Deliverance…” feels constructed out of much more densely- and thoughtfully-constructed individual songs, and yet the album is no less oppressively atmospheric for it. Make no mistake about it, this is an oppressively heavy, unrelentingly bleak soundscape, barren of all but the most twisted forms of life.
The morbid death-doom brutality of opening bruiser ‘The Primordial One’ emerges out of the darkness fully-formed: crunching riffs, tormented howls, furious percussion and a distinctively unsettling, murky sound. The pummeling low-end death metal sound operates within the lineage of bands like Dead Congregation and Incantation, while the jarring, dissonant guitarwork at times owes much to Deathspell Omega (though I’m very cautious about invoking that band’s name merely on account of dissonance), both in its minimalist execution and the profound sense of disorienting madness it creates. The song creaks and groans, lumbering on, rising into a cacoghany of creaking Gorguts-esque guitars and demented, crashing percussion.
Other songs such as “Lord of the Three Realms” and “Waters of Man” find the band delving deeper into putrid atmospheres, ferocious riffs and dense grooves, equal parts old-school death metal and dissonant black metal. “Demonic Evocation Prayer” is a nightmarish frenzy of old-school Swedish death metal reinterpreted through the band’s blackened musical blender. Ten-minute behemoth “Unmask the Face of False” is an utterly pulverising death metal massacre; The song’s central droning guitar-section owes much to the manic guitarwork of the late Steeve Hurdle, who pioneered a similar style on Gorguts’ legendary album Obscura. M.T. and R.S.’ terrifying screams of “Salvation!” command a central presence here among the thunderous death metal grooves, machine-gun blastbeats and rich, dread-filled atmosphere.
Perhaps the single most impressive song on the record is the almost ten-minute opus “The Graeae”, which moves with such subtle confidence and deft execution between sections of furious death-doom battery, chilling acoustic passages dripping with atmosphere, and crushing blackened doom; the cathartic, passionate crescendo of the song is a truly sublime moment that reaches into the ashes of a dying world and draws out something unsettling and profoundly beautiful.
The terrifying grandeur of this album is really something to behold, a morbid monument to death and decay. It’s a dense, punishing extreme metal album that rewards careful, repeated listens by a dedicated listener prepared to immerse themselves totally into this bleak, rotting soundscape. The terrifying crescendo of ‘…Of Hell’ is the soundtrack to the final nail being hammered into the coffin as the muffled screams are buried beneath the dirt. If you were looking for hope, you will find none here, but you may nonetheless find something like absolution in the roiling, chaotic world of Desolate Shrine.