The island of Thule was supposed to be the end of the (known) world in medieval times, allegedly located six days away from Britain, right in the middle of the Atlantic. Therefore a lot of people have connected the mysterious island with Atlantis. Another perfect backdrop for any metal album, although one should be careful as there have been several fascist and right-wing societies named “Thule Gesellschaft” (Thule Society) or “Thule Seminar”.
So, at the beginning German black metal institution The Ruins of Beverast (named after an event in Nordic mythology after the collapse of the Bifröst) will release their latest full-length record which is named “The Thule Grimoires” - a collection of spells to locate Thule? Interesting is the contrast between the title, the content and the music, but we will come to that in a minute.
The Ruins of Beverast was initiated as a one-man project in 2003 in Aachen, Western Germany and has by now garnered a large following within the metal community thanks to its really powerful and all-around brilliant releases. The new record is the sixth full-length and can be linked to last year’s miraculous split with Almyrkvi which seems to have stirred some change in TROB’s sound.
The basic soundscape is still monolithic and of a somewhat low-tuned nature: please, do not associate low-tuned with typical NuMetal bass and guitar lines, but rather note that the sound of all instruments is rather dark, gloomy and deep. That special sound has always been the specialty of Alexander Frohn, the mastermind behind the band, which was initially not meant to be a live band. That has changed since Roadburn 2013 and now The Ruins of Beverast are a live force to be experienced – their performance at Roadburn in 2018 remains one of my fondest memories ever.
“The Thule Grimoires” is a collection of songs each focusing on a different character or group and their fight against nature and its powers. There seems to be a war going on in these songs and nature is battling mankind – the parallel to our times and the events of a small biological thing like a virus killing hundreds of thousands of people needs no explanation. Mankind has tried to subdue and abuse nature – nowadays we do that with technology, in the past one used anything he or she could, even magic, if necessary (and if one believed in such a thing). Here mankind tries to find that supposedly wonderful island of Thule, the end of the earth. Why? Well, maybe to get closer to god.
How to find the island? By using magical spells, and this album is really putting a spell on its audience. One can hardly escape the pull of it, which is due to the melancholic nature of the songs. The sound itself is a bit different from a lot of other TROB releases: in the past, the project was known for a kind of Shaman version of atmospheric black metal but on “The Thule Grimoires” the sound is different. A logical next step after the industrial inspired split with Almyrkvi, TROB now presents a record whose musical landscape is contradicting the lyrical themes. These are not the rituals one witnessed from the band before, with many natural sounds and lots of details which sounded like the shaman dancing around a fire putting a spell on the witnesses for them to do his bidding and for nature to fulfill the community’s wish. Here the sound is much more like a Neubauten-version of TROB: very industrial in approach and sound with lots of passages where the drums feature some sounds that sound like straight out of a blacksmith’s workspace. Or where echo effects are used effectively in order to resemble the sound of waves crashing against a submarine as heard from within. That is generally a feeling that crossed my mind quite often while listening to this brilliant record – I had a feeling of being drowned and surrounded by water, looking for a way to find out.
This again brings this review back full circle: It seems as if one is on a voyage to Thule in a special boat, one underneath the surface of the water with lots of technology surrounding the people around oneself. Every person is allowed to have an appearance and talk about his/her/their own fight against nature, it resembles medieval works like the Canterbury Tales or the Decamerone in its conception. This notion is also connected to the artwork which shows the ruins of some temples but not in a natural way but in rather greenish appearance – maybe the color comes from the water surrounding the ruins of from the periscope one has to use in order to see them.
Obviously, this review could go on forever, praising every bit and snippet of this record, talking about how special songs like “Anchoress in Furs” or “Deserts to Bind and Defeat” are (both contenders for song of the year) – but to put all of this in a nutshell: “The Thule Grimoires” are a first and early contender for the things a lot of us have done last month – our topoftheyear lists. At the moment, it should spearhead loads of them.