In case the name doesn’t give it away, ShEver are in fact an all female ensemble, although this does take a while to click from listening. What this is NOT is one of those irksome, cheesy and overly polite, plastic sounding “gothic” metal albums that for many is the first thing that will spring to mind when hearing the words Female and Metal in the same sentence. These four Swiss gals have been around since 2004, have released a few demos and this is their second full length, and for those who are au fait with Total Rust, you should know better than to expect sunshine and happiness from these doomish dames.

As the name suggests this is a ritualistic experience, filled with lugubrium and a dirge-like ambience. ‘Ritual Of Chaos’ begins through the sounds of crackling fire as the music pipes in gradually, dragging us through into a maundering hypnotic haze. Crashing into the chorus with slow, intense droning guitars and a brooding bassline, lead vocalist Alexandra begins to showcase her deep, commanding call, which is bellowed out like amidnightincantation between the guttural croaks and rasps, which all makes this a rather varied album with lots of diverse vocal styles to keep the listener on their toes. ‘(You Are) The Mirror’ really has me thinking of Bloody Panda in the level of dark ritualism, with sinister witchy vocals and a very Earthly feel. The dark drumbeat is most hypnotic, working with a cyclical riff to work you under its spell and ensnare you within a web of eerie wails. Chanting once again interrupts and breaks through the tide of hypnotic guitars and raspy vocals on ‘Je Suis Nee’.

This is very well put together, with strongly crafted melodies and a relentlessly claustrophobic and sombre atmosphere that drags you into the darkness and keeps you there. There’s almost a post-hardcore-esque intensity at times, namely on ‘Delirio’. ‘Souls Colliding’ shuffles in through a shroud of darkness, as a repetitive riff draws me in to its cycle and takes me round and round. The music is heavy and fuzzy; ‘Mirror’ is particularly oppressive and filled with horror, dragging us in through a cataclysmic opening riff before those bewitching vocals start up. There’s also a bit of a Sub Rosa thing about this at times. While there is room for ShEver to improve, I just love the ritualistic vibe to this, and think the vocals in particular are fantastically done. An impressive album by a band that deserve a bit of recognition.

(8/10 Luci Herbert)