Ruins of Beverast, The - Rain Upon the Impure (2006)
I personally believe that the very best atmospheric extreme metal is not so much music that you listen to in the same way that you would tradtional metal like Iron Maiden, Slayer, Morbid Angel or Candlemass I believe, rather, that it is music you need to open yourself up to and allow it to become part of you, the quality of it being determined by how successfully the music meshes with your own psyche. To this end certain artists are supremely capable, Tobias Möckl of Paysage d'Hiver for example is a master, and The Ruins of Beverast's Alexander von Meilenwald is another I would venture to add into that select group.
TRoB is in essence a black metal project, but he also often ventures into the realm of doom metal, in particular funeral doom in the case of Rain Upon the Impure. He likes to slow down the blasting black metal to a crawl and when he does probably illustrates better than anyone the correlation between atmospheric black metal and funeral doom. For me, these two sub-genres have always been two sides of the same coin anyway, both capable of having a very similar effect, albeit arrived at in a very different way. He also seems to have a penchant for choral effects, whether it is the christian orthodox chants made familiar by Batushka, viking-style chanting in the vein of Hammerheart-era Bathory or the Gregorian chant featured in the title track.
Make no mistake, this is a very long album at almost 80 minutes, but it never once becomes tedious and as soon as it ends I am more than ready to take the trip again. The five tracks (excluding the two interludes) by virtue of their length, are allowed to develop and build to a maturity that lesser talent's works lack. They are in no way long for the sake of it, the tracks not reverting to the repetitive, hypnotic effect of a lot of atmo-black, rather they are each as long as they need to be to weave whatever tale and convey whatever atmosphere AvM is striving for and personally I wouldn't want him to trim any of them. The music is incredibly dark and dense, the sheer weight of the material feels like some overwhelming natural force of star-crushing magnitude and AvM's vocals are some of the most evil-sounding in metal which are thrown into sharp relief when set against the choral effects. Whether it's the heaving dirge-like intro to Soliloquy of the Stigmatised Shepherd or the blasting of 50 Forts Along the Rhine, the atmosphere is equally menacing and sinister - almost relentless in it's pulverizing effect.
What I like about The Ruins of Beverast is that, unlike so many other black metal solo projects, Alexander von Meilenwald does not feel the need to spew his every musical thought out into the public domain, but rather takes the time to work on his material until it is of sufficient quality to be unleashed on the unsuspecting black metal hordes. One listen to any of his albums tells you that the tracks are well-crafted and polished (in a compositional sense, not necessarily polished sounding) and are the product of a particularly creative mind who knows exactly how to get the most from his chosen medium. Rain Upon the Impure is yet more proof to me that, despite the many unoriginal and frankly quite dull acts, black metal is one of the most exciting and varied metal genres, still more than capable of issuing surprises aplenty. As a footnote it is also scientifically proven* that a Vincent Price sample makes an album about 12% more awesome.
(*not actually true)