Back in January of this year I was bowled over by the psychedelic cosmos of Takitum Tootem the E.P. Now here is its big sister/brother all grown up but still floating in space but this time within Earth’s atmosphere. More of an out of body experience in the astral plane. The Ruins of Beverast have not quite gone full Yuri Gagarin and jettisoned the Black Metal for a life in orbit but Exuvia is pretty close. Alexander Meilenwald is a visionary psychonaut who wants us all to take a trip into the unknown. His other worldly compositions retain enough organic appeal to allow less astronomically minded listeners to jump on board too.
Opener and title track “Exuvia” is a floating behemoth weighing in at 15 and a half minutes. Exuvia is the shed skin of a scorpion or other arthropod and there is a great sense of shamanistic ritual and rebirth here.
The tribal drums that featured on Takitum Tootem (Wardance) (the second part of which closes this album) are used to great effect as is Meilenwald’s chant like vocals backed with soprano choral sections. This is metal in IMAX. A truly cinematic event. Science fiction shot through with the knowledge of ancient civilizations. “Sutur Barbaar Maritime” brings with it icy riffs and blastbeats which segue into tribal passages that remind me of the heart ripping scene in Temple OF Doom (that is a good thing). By the time the drum begins pounding I feel like I am supposed to row a battered warship through tumultuous waves. Before I feel the sting of the lash “Maere (On a Stillbirths Tomb) begins and adds melancholic doom to the aural palette. The double tracked vocal – gruff/synthetic creates a truly eerie atmosphere which acts as a foil to the blackened passages and bursts of melody.
Bagpipes and metal are not great bedfellow – Korn notwithstanding, “The Pythia’s Pale Wolves” utilise them to good effect and bizarrely even have backing section that sounds a little like Jonathan Davies scat calling mixed with Disturbed (you ‘eard!). Don’t worry that is just one layer in this audio parfait. As with most of the tracks here it is an epic beast meaning there are plenty of twists, turns and changes of direction and things soon veer off towards the Middle East via Ancient Greece and a powerful desert ritual. Whatever was summoned by the female shaman brings with it rapid bombast and a wrathful vocal. Proper orange squeezing moments here! The ending is just odd. Really odd, like waking from a bizarre dream or entering David Lynch’s subconscious.
“Towards Malakia” follows. Now as a lad in North London Malakia always meant wanker or “spunk” – I had a lot of Greek mates. Apparently it is also Ancient Greek for softness or effeminacy. There is little softness here but this is no song for wankers either. What “Towards Malakia” provides is a hypnotic tribal hymn that reminds me in part of Devin Townsend Project which builds into a Black Metal crescendo a la Akercocke.
“Takitum Tootem (Wardance)“ as I mentioned at the beginning , featured on the January E.P. On that release it featured alongside a cover of “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”. It sat perfectly next to Floyd and the aftermath of that battle “Takitum Tootem (trance) makes an even greater bedfellow with the rest of Exuvia. The tribal loops and synth passages replace the harsh warmongering riffs and gruff bloodthirstiness of Wardance. This trance is brought about by peyote and meditation after a long rewarding journey.
Spending an hour with Exuvia allows a shedding of the real, a metamorphosis from the mundanity and repetition of our techno filled existence and allows the listener to embrace both our heathen pasts and have a glimpse into a star filled future.
(8.5/10 Matt Mason)