The UK’s Shrines are an avantgarde group made up of former Ackercocke and current Voices mastermind Samuel Loynes, as well as Matt Adnett of Obscene Entity. Loynes handles both guitar and vocals, while Matt Adnett handles some additional guitar, and it culminates into something that I can’t say I’ve ever heard before. It’s definitely progressive/avantgarde as we’d expect from a Loynes project, but it mixes in with an older death metal sound and style that elicits some interesting musical flavors. While I can see how people might also prefer the unarguably more death metal antics of “Eternal Return” (6:11) I find that I prefer the clean nodes a great deal more. They just feel different for the kind of music that I’m being exposed to here, and don’t remind me of ten million other progressive death metal acts which sound arguably roundabout the same. The band aren’t reaching for Opeth-era material here, and I guess I could compare it to something a bit more melancholy. I suppose this is more on the Paradise Lost or Ulver side of the spectrum, yet I can still hear even older influences going into the music over on Adnett’s side, which are the standard building blocks of classic death metal. There’s no question that the approach being utilized here is indeed progressive, but it comes off like a sucker punch in the fact that I’d immediately expect a man to profusely grunt and gurgle through the disc; which doesn’t really happen. Even though the harsh vocal approach utilized here isn’t quite Abominable Putridity, Cryptopsy or Cannibal Corpse (at least in most lines) it still manages to deliver with an old school flair that somehow meets up with a more intelligent design composition, and that is worth noting. The band even employs an instrumental by the name “Of The Wolf” (6:13) which just goes to show how well Loynes and Adnett work together and that there’s a definite musical chemistry which simply cannot be denied. That being said, Shrines is not the heaviest album you’ll hear this year; but it is one that stands out above many of the other death metal approaches that you’ll come across. Thankfully, there are no core elements to be found and nothing in the way of useless modernistic trends. Shrines is quite simply, real music in which the musicians actually spent a lot of time producing and perfecting. It’s abrasive, soothing and exponentially intricate, which gives it the same heft and vibrancy of classical music and in that way, demonstrates it as the type of classical evolution that heavy metal compositions were made to be. While some might not see in it in the common flavors of the month, heavy metal music is still some of the most intelligent music on this planet; Shrines being a shining example of that statement.
(10 Tracks, 43:00)