It comes as little surprise that Finland, a country whose sun-cycle engenders circadian insanity, is host to a veritable pantheon of definitively heavy bands. Desolate Shrine stand proud amidst their ranks, hoisting aloft a looming colossus of atmospheric death metal to further blot out the sun. Standing on the shoulders of an already potent discography, fourth album, Deliverance from the Godless Void, weaves arcane Incantations through Thergothonian vistas for yet another evocative and doubly crushing outing. 2015’s The Heart of the Netherworld smothered and stifled with its dense environs; this time around, the Fins have donned a notably blackened mantle, and while it doesn’t alter the spell-craft too dramatically, the added fire and brimstone most certainly serves to unsettle already perilous waters.
If you’re new to the band, what Desolate Shrine play is an inclement death metal ensorcelled with a doom sensibility to shame Nostradamus. But realistically, the line between the extreme genres is increasingly slight here, as a prominent black metal inflection commands more and more of these occult orchestrations. “The Primordial One” wields Norwegian notes amidst relentless tides of blasting drums and mournful guitar leads, often building to disconsolate crescendos, while the bands’ diseased desire to toy with tempos soon rears its head on “Lord of the Three Realms,” employing an ebbing, sea-sick rhythm amidst the vocals of duel-frontmen, M.T and R.S, whose confluence of rusted rasps and aphotic deeps manage to haunt in equal measure.
While this is an act whose nature is effortlessly abyssal, Deliverance has a deceptively wicked way with riffs — an angle left somewhat unattended on previous records. “Unmask the Face of False” and album centrepiece, “The Graeae,” both manipulate brooding doom riffs that are simultaneously devastating and eerily memorable, and with each song a whisper under ten minutes long, monotony is never an issue, with enough alterations in structure to see the advanced lengths flow by in the blink of a masochistic eye. The latter in particular unravels slowly before carving out vast sunken grooves to immediately engage the neck, sparsely accented with isolated piano keys for a truly chilling entry. Connoisseurs of traditional immediacy in their metal may not delve too deeply here, and as such, the claustrophobic quality the material thrives on might not be for everybody. This is blackened death metal at its most pernicious, and if those genres don’t apply to your musical specifications, then neither will Desolate Shrine. Fortunately, those listeners possessed of a more tempestuous taste can rely on cuts like “Demonic Evocation Prayer” to exemplify its title, scorching through its existence with savage abandon, often accelerating beyond the passages of unsettling calm the song provides amidst its innate storm.
In comparison with previous albums, the production here is a shade cleaner. Though hardly sanitized, it does offer the quality of the mix a chance to stand out, cementing multi-instrumentalist, L.L’s consummate dedication to Desolate Shrine in his ability to deliver feral guitar lines and contrast them with inescapable crunch. The production particularly emphasizes his noteworthy drum work, proliferating a jarring dichotomy of insistent blastbeats amidst creative fills that accentuate the record’s more pensive moments, allowing those vilifying vocals to emanate up from the ether. Such is the quality of the writing, the record builds in pressure throughout its run-time – “The Silent Star” gathers up a collection of those lumbering rhythms and displays them boldly over suffocating atmospherics, anchoring the album’s second half with a grave gravitas amidst its more scathing siblings.
Black, death, atmospheric, call it what you will, this is music to drown in — emotionally unforgiving and perversely obsessional. Desolate Shrine are a band that elicit hyperbole and deservedly so, as their brand of darkened discontent is superlative in itself. In a genre where “malevolent” is often synonymous with “pantomime,” Deliverance from the Godless Void offers a legitimate ink-blotted gloom to submerge ourselves — an experience I urge you not to miss — come this chill turn of the season. Layered with adept musicianship and predatory writing, this is the current jewel in this Finnish leviathan’s crown, whose wicked propensity for aural ugliness proves inexorably that Desolation is forever Godless, and this whole act immutably decreed.