Shrines Shrines 01I know this is about the twentieth time I’ve brought this up in the past year, but Voices are amazing and you should buy everything they sell at you. I feel pretty smug that I managed to get my name down to review London before my fellow scribes had time to realize what they were missing: not only will I be first in line to review their next record (please don’t take this from me AMG), I also get first dibs on reviewing any affiliated acts. And as Voices guitarist Sam Loynes says “yes to anything that comes [his] way, metal or otherwise,” these are quite numerous. Shrines (formerly known as Diminished Fifth) is the third of Sam’s bands I’ve reviewed (he also sings for The Antichrist Imperium), and one I’d been very much looking forward to listening to ever since hearing his description of them as “kind of Neurosis-y but Akercocke-y, bit of Gojira in there.” My expectations sky high, I settled down in my captain’s chair, clamped on my finest headphones, and tentatively caressed the iTunes play button.

After twenty minutes of accidentally listening to Sigh and thinking “wow, Shrines really sound like Sigh,” I found the correct record and finally got down to it. Shrines do not in fact sound like Sigh, but do sound “kind of Neurosis-y but Akercocke-y, bit of Gojira in there.” Though Shrines is not as good as this ludicrously fantastic blend suggests it could be, it’s still a very well executed and distinctive take on atmospheric black/death metal. Much of the album indeed occupies the strange space between Gojira and Akercocke (“Eternal Return” and “Forsaken Origin” are the best examples of this blend), but plenty of other influences creep in, from Drudkh (“Ariadne’s Truth”) to Krallice and Isis (“The Drowned and Saved”) to Primordial (“Of the Wolf,” “Forsaken Origin”) to Morbid Angel (“Multitude of Sin”). The Neurosis/Isis influence is occasionally apparent but subtle, becoming most noticeable on the acoustic “In the Manor.”

This diversity is held together by Sam’s unusual vocals. While growls and rasps are occasionally called for, Sam uses his diverse clean voice extensively. His singing style is simultaneously melodramatic and plaintive, occasionally verging on becoming strained. Along with the interesting harmonies, his style both contributes to Shrines‘ distinctiveness and helps to tie sometimes very disparate song elements together. If anything, I could have done without the growled vocals entirely in favor of more clean singing placed higher in the mix (sorry Andy Synn).

Shrines Shrines 02

Unfortunately, captivating vocals aren’t enough to save some of the ropier riffs on the record. The diversity is both a blessing and a curse for Shrines: it helps keep the album interesting but can lead to a loss of atmosphere and consistency – especially towards middle of the album, which contains the majority of the more straight-up death and black metal riffing. It also makes having a consistent mix that suits all the different styles more difficult. Shrines have opted for a claustrophobic guitar tone and a surprising amount of low bass on the kick drum. This causes the denser arrangements and faster sections to become quite muffled, though the sound works well when the drumming is sparser.

Overall this is an extremely promising debut album brimming with creativity. Shrines have existed in one form or another since the late 2000s, and given that it has taken them so long to release anything, it’s not surprising to find some musical baggage on here. Judging by recent interviews the band’s sound is still evolving, and with a bit more tweaking and trimming I’m certain they will create majesty. In the mean time, though, Shrines delivers plenty of musical sustenance for anyone craving something a little out of the ordinary.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Media Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Apocalyptic Witchcraft
Out Worldwide: September 25th, 2015

Share →
  • Handy Donut Hole

    Give me anything remotely related to Voices and I will greedily gobble it up.

  • Excentric_1307

    So I’m ,listening to this with my home setup, which has a subwoofer. During the double bass parts it sounds like one low booming noise. That’s kinda my gripe about the sound.

    • sir_c

      Could be your woofer. How big is the dog? *grin*

      • Excentric_1307

        10 inches and 500 meaty watts of pleasure.

  • Alexandre Barata

    The double-bass sounds kinda like a machine-gun (and not in a good way), a bit lifeless. But the songs are pretty nice, and a nice way to get some good prog-y Black/Death!

  • You wot m8?

    The moment that the musical shift hit at about 0:30 in the embedded track was one of the best musical moments I’ve heard all year. Damn, I think I like this.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Interesting, but, yeah, that bass from the drum. : (

    I’m going into broken record mode, as I’ve said this before: I wish bands would stop adding apparently unrelated sound clips, like the guy here on the album trying to describe his “movie”. And I’m not talking about brilliant spoken-word passages like on Voices’ London. I’m thinking of stuff like those Unabomber clips on Izah’s Sistere. This just gets tiring with repeat listens.

    The key phrase here for me is “apparently unrelated”. I don’t mind, and even enjoy, spoken word sections like on YOB’s In Our Blood, and that guy presenting a slideshow on various Satanic deities on… my mind’s blank (is that on The Satanist?). I think it’s because, in these two cases, the words really add to the atmosphere and complement the music.

    Aaaaaaaaaannnywho…. on a totally unrelated note: if L. Saunders is out there, have you heard the new Slugdge?

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Im very keen to hear the new slugdge, hopefully it gets a review and doesn’t become a TYMHM album…

      • Monsterth Goatom

        I think it’s good, Carlos; maybe a step back from their 2014 release. Right now, I feel the first half is stronger than the second half. “Spore Ensemble” is easily going to make it onto my list of favourite songs this year.

        Of course, it’s not that long ago that Gastronomicon came out. It doesn’t feel rushed to me, though, or like a collection of Gastronomicon outtakes. Sadly, I hear the band has said this will be their final record. Hope that’s just a rumour, but I guess the slug pun fun eventually runs out of steam (or slime).

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          Cheers for that, they sure work quick for a bunch of slugs, it’s definitely on my to do list. Gastronomicon was a real gem from last year and if it weren’t for the steady stream of top releases this year, I would’ve actioned my plan to investigate their catalog.
          Disappointing (if true) that they’re breaking up… searching for a slime trail into sunset metaphor but failing…

          • Luke_22

            Unfortunately the new album seemed to emerge from nowhere so it’s destined to be a TYMHM segment. So far digging the new one. Definitely improved production.

          • Phil Daly

            Really enjoying the new Slugdge. They had a few early versions of tracks up on YouTube, so familiar with a few of them already. Spore Ensemble, Toxic Salts and Unchained Malady are current favourites. They recently said on Facebook they’ll have physical releases coming soon. Hope the “final album” rumours prove false, although would understand if they knocked the slug stuff on the head and did stuff under a new name. Would be nice to hear what they could do with a decent recording budget!

    • Arjan Zwamborn

      Funny, I was reading this comment and the first thing that jumped to my mind was that I thought Izah’s Sistere is a good example of how to successfully use sound clips ’cause it sounds so awesome. Oh well, tastes and stuff I guess.
      This reviewed album here does seem interesting, will give it a shot :)

    • Norfair Legend

      All hail our supreme greatness, Mollusca!

    • Luke_22

      Hey dude I am still here and alive. Yes it took me by surprise and I’m still on early listens but enjoying it so far. Seems like a more refined, dare I say mature effort. Still not sure how it stacks up to Gastronomicon but quality stuff from early impressions.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Cool. Looking forward to your take on it, if it makes it to a TYMHM post. These guys deserve to be on a label.

  • My Bandcamp stream link comment is still in the approval queue? :(

    Meanwhile I’ve listened to the album a lot more and I’m firmly in the “okay but derivative” camp.

    Whilst Loynes’s clean vocals work significantly better here than they did in The Antichrist Imperium (which is to say they do not sound dreadfully out of place*), but the riffing borrows so heavily and so frequently that it feels like riffs have been stolen from rather than inspired by Gojira.

    * I love London to bits, but The Antichrist Imperium was a terrible disappointment

  • Pimpolho

    I love how they are tagged as ”blavk metal” in their bandcamp page