Desolate Shrine – The Heart of the Netherworld (Dark Descent Records)

Thursday, 15th January 2015
Rating: 8.5/10

You know you are in for a long haul when a band’s “Intro” track is over four minutes in length. Most bands settle for something around the range of 10 seconds to maybe two minutes, but not Desolate Shrine, who meticulously plot out extensive dark trips to the other side on their third effort, The Heart of the Netherworld. So sit back in your comfiest chair and get ready for the oncoming nightmares.

Desolate Shrine’s first two albums established them as being a band to watch within the cavernous death metal realms, and The Heart of the Netherworld sees them further upping their game. Not afraid to take a track into the double-digits, the variety in Desolate Shrine’s songwriting craft is what will keep your attention glued to the speakers. With a decidedly crunchy guitar backbone, they focus on atmosphere frequently, but not at the overall expensive of the riffs. This creates a feeling of bleakness and despair, even in the most quiet of moments such as the mellow piano that opens “We Dawn Anew.” The way that they build up tension and progress towards a violent climax, complete with a thorough drop-off afterwards (see “Desolate Shrine”) is exceptionally done. The reason this works so well is due to the fact that you can hear the melodies layered into their sound. While it’s relatively dirty (as it should be), the underpinning of melody give the band an edge to many vying for the same space that ultimately drowns out their sound (and makes it a bit dull after a while).

Carrying on the fine tradition of Finnish death metal, The Heart of the Netherworld sees the band in great shape for the years to come. It’s nice to hear some melody amidst the chaos of the spiraling and cavernous approach that seems to be picking up momentum over the past few years. Desolate Shrine have reserved themselves a seat at the front of the class.

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