The Heart of the Netherworld is the third full-length from the band Desolate Shrine who are Helsinki, Finland natives. Wasting no time since their first release in 2011, they have never released any demos or EPs and have been strictly a full-length band thus far. The band is made up of three members listed as L.L. (all instruments), M.T. (vocals) and R.S. (vocals). This album can only be described as a whirlwind of dark, demonic instrumentation of everything that represents the black forces of this world. Much like in the vein of their previous effort The Sanctum of Human Darkness, there’s lots of mid-paced blasting and a lot of tremolo picking.
The intro builds up with a mixture of horrifying sounds of sheer terror and suffering that construct themselves into the first bone-chilling notes of the album. As soon as the collision between the cymbals and guitars happen, the hair on the back of my neck stands up. Instantly so much energy is coming from the band and you can feel the massive intensity that comes with this unique style of dark and cosmic death metal that Desolate Shrine bring to the subgenre of death metal.
One thing people will notice right off the bat is that this album is consistent in song structure. Every song seems to have the same formula: build up to a skull-crushing riff, then progress the rest of the song with more powerful and triumphant riffs until they end it with all instruments ringing out into a swampy abyss of reverb. Normally this would get annoying for me. The same general formula for every song on the same album bugs me most of the time, unless I can get over it because of how good the songs are, which is the situation I find myself in with this album. For whatever reason, it just works really well with this band and more power to them for that. I also strongly believe in the use of reverb, especially for this kind of death metal. Reverb always adds a certain element combined with all the other factors of an album that beefs this album up with more stamina and strength rather than producing the tracks dry. This album would not be the same if there was no reverb on it.
When I listen to The Heart of the Netherworld I feel an authentic sense of passion involved. I truly respect a band that can take the time to write a record like this, especially one that’s an hour long that doesn’t get boring. Releasing an hour-long record takes guts and they successfully pulled it off. Each song is rigorously put together and precisely thought out. Even the order of the songs is important on this record. You can tell that they didn’t just write a bunch of songs and then put them in a random order, they made a conscious effort to make sure that the track listing was ordered efficiently and correctly.
The lyrics on this album are supremely devoted to Satan and other demonic forces, just like on the previous two records. There are lyrics about rituals, invoking spirits and devil worship. I think the lyrics are a very important part of this record and for the band in general. This is where I think that true sense of passion and devotion to the music comes from. Philosophies can make a HUGE difference when structuring songs and writing riffs. I personally don’t know what to believe as far as spirituality goes, but this band has a mindset that is dedicated to what they believe in and it really shows in their music. Dedication and sincerity to the ideologies within the band is something that I really admire with Desolate Shrine. They definitely know how clear they want to be with their message and how much they want to leave up to interpretation. I like that perfect balance of being able to have a sense of curiosity and wonder about what was going through their minds when they were writing the music and the lyrics. I feel that it really enhances the listening experience, especially for The Heart of the Netherworld.
This is an amazing album from start to finish. There are some minor setbacks such as the length of the record. For some people it might be hard to be able to sit through an album that long, but I didn’t find that it was a problem for me. On the other hand, I don’t think Desolate Shrine wants to be a band that has a broad range of fans. They’re looking for a specific group of people who can really listen and appreciate everything that this record represents. While this album is not technically proficient by any means, the configuration of it might be difficult to follow at times. I will say it does take a few listens to really let it sink into your brain. This is not an album that is meant to be listened to casually. I highly recommend that you take an hour out of the day and sit, or even lie down and put this album on and just close your eyes. This album deserves your undivided attention.
2. Black Fires of God
3. Desolate Shrine
5. We Dawn Anew
7. Heart of the Netherworld
Desolate Shrine are:
L.L. – All instruments
R.S. – Vocals
M.T. – Vocals