The Ruins of Beverast have been a ride-or-die band for me since the first time I heard them. Their career spans fourteen years and (now) five full length albums, during which time they have never been anything but unapologetically their own entity among the metal scene. Whether it’s the crushing doomed black metal of Rain Upon the Impure, the full-on riff assault of Blood Vaults (which I will go to bat for every single time, nay-sayers be damned), or the re-shaping of classic songs by Dead Can Dance and Depeche Mode on Enchanted by Gravemould, Alexander von Meilenwald has built a legacy on daring experimentation that wins his music either shining praise or confused head shakes. For my money, the Ruins are a band that I can turn to time and time again, no matter what I am in the mood for, and find something that satisfies me. I’m extremely pleased then, to be able bring you a double feature of new material from this cult classic: an EP, Takitum Tootem!, and a new full length, Exuvia, that both showcase the entirety of their sound, and feature some of the best material in the band’s illustrious catalog.
First up is Takitum Tootem!, a twenty minute, two song EP released in December that shows the Ruins of Beverast taking their sound into completely over-the-top experimental territories. The EP begins with the title track, “Takitum Tootem! (Wardance).” Building off of a single guitar line and drum pattern and fueled by psychedelic hysteria, this song perfectly evokes the essence of its namesake, entrancing the listener and channeling a primal essence that evokes a pre-battle frenzy. Contrasting this is the album’s B side: a re-imagining of the Pink Floyd classic “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” which retains the spacey prog elements of the original while dialing up the intensity and volume.
Takitum Tootem! represents a sharp left turn for the band’s sound; there is no black metal to speak of on these songs, and even the funereal doom the band has been known for is sacrificed for a drum circle tribal pulse. It was unsurprising, then, that the majority of the coverage I saw for this EP upon its release was either confusion or outright decrying it as a misstep. Yet I feel like this is wholly undeserved. Maybe it wasn’t the Ruins of Beverast album you expected, but part of what draws me to this band is never knowing what to expect in the first place. Every album I devoured was a chance to hear something different than the one before it; I don’t think I would ever want this band to be predictable. For what they are, these pieces make wonderful contrasts for each other, and manage to show both extremes of what The Ruins of Beverast’s music is capable of: crushing extreme metal and a willingness to explore outsider sounds. I cannot help but love this.
The follow-up and counterpart to Takitum Tootem! is Exuvia, the band’s first full-length release since 2013’s Blood Vaults. If that album was too conservative for you (which was a complaint I see about it quite a bit) Exuvia is Meilenwald giving you what you want in spades. Whether it’s operatic backing vocals, bagpipes, samples of ritual chanting, or Meilenwald’s nu-metal-esque scat vocals in “The Pythia’s Pale Wolves” Exuvia sees the Ruins utilizing their most eclectic palate of extra touches to date, and yet as always, the massive riffs keep everything grounded.
Much of the album contains a similar feel to Takitum Tootem!, particularly the album-opening title track and (of course) the album closer “Takitum Tootum! (Trance),” which both retain the hypnotic repetition present in the EP’s songs. Fear not, however: if you are worried the band has embraced the tribal aspect completely, the classic mix of atmospheric black metal and choral doom dirge is brought back once more to great effect. Exuvia is as heavy as you could imagine, and the signature sinuous song structures return, creating an album that flows from bludgeoning metal to heady progressive oddness more effortlessly than ever before. Exuvia feels at once like a distillation of the best parts of everything that the Ruins of Beverast have built a reputation on to this day, and also a breath of revitalizing air for their formula.
Together, Takitum Tootem! and Exuvia, according to the band, form “a bipartite meditation and celebration in euphoria for manhood’s loss of the crown of creation”, and this concludes my bipartite meditation and celebration of these magnificent offerings from a band that is very near and dear to me. The Ruins of Beverast are uncompromising in their approach to crafting music, and with these latest offerings they have doubled down on this principal and created works that continue in a long legacy of greatness. Or maybe they left you more confused than before, in which case this article is not for you. I like to hope I’ve made a believer out of you though.