“Listen to [this album] with a candle burning and you will see your entire future.” – Anita Miller (Almost Famous)
With The Heart of the Netherworld, Desolate Shrine members LL (the band’s only instrumentalist), MT and RS (vocalists) have put forth an astounding, sweeping 63-minute effort. It’s their third release in only five years, and second on Dark Descent Records. Hailing from Helsinki, Finland, where we can only assume from the sound of this record that all is dark, dismal and cold, Netherworld is a heavy, oppressive release of blackened death metal sure to leave a mark on your emotional development. It is no mistake that this album is released in the dead of winter.
We begin with an “Intro” track that is less classic intro and more thesis statement of what the band wishes to accomplish. As the album progresses, the song lengths increase and the spiraling, drawing-down effect of the music grabs hold, bringing you down into what feels like a dank, cold dungeon. But don’t be surprised by the album’s ability to put together some beautiful melodies. Despite the song lengths, each one feels like multiple songs, and sometimes like multiple songs being played at the same time.
As for comparison with their two previous releases, Tenebrous Towers (2011) and The Sanctum of Human Darkness (2012), Netherworld feels more polished, with production that seamlessly, and rather cleanly, blends layers of vocals, gore dripping guitar riffs and driving drums into a very distinctive but murky mix. The album feels cyclical, coherent and familiar. It’s an in-your-face style of songwriting that draws you into the chaos and doesn’t let you leave until the needle is scratching the record label.
The Heart of the Netherworld will most likely be the band’s most popular release to date among extreme metal fans and will probably frequent many end of the year best-of lists. This is a focused effort that was clearly calculated and not rushed. They took what makes them great and used that formula to make themselves even better. Desolate Shrine has truly arrived.