Nearly two years after their debut release, Tenebrous Towers, Finland’s Desolate Shrine comes back with their sophmore effort, The Sanctum of Human Darkness, and with its release, we get more of their anger-filled musical destruction. The tone remains the same with the death metal style that we got from their original along with subtle infusions of black metal. They say that Finland is home to some of the nastiest death metal around, and Desolate Shrine continues to state that case.
With over 55 minutes of an aural assault, The Sanctum of Human Darkness gives us a few things to mull over while listening to it. My favorite tracks tend to be the longer ones on the album such as Lair of Wolf & 1000 Lions (Nine Forgotten Names), Chalice of Flesh & Bone (The Eminence of Chaos) and Plane of Awake (Dreams Over The Angel – Serpent Tower). Desolate Shrine seems to be in their comfort zone on the longer tracks as they take their time to develop the songs all while adding more depth to the tracks. The aforementioned Lair of Wolf & 1000 Lions (Nine Forgotten Names) is nearly nine minutes of metal bliss with it semi-droning throughout.
While you would expect a death metal band of this nature to favor blastbeats and gutteral shouts, Desolate Shrine seems to favor the mid-tempo grooves and hooks to project these songs as deep as they can. I even hate to pigeonhole bands like Desolate Shrine into death metal because they are much more dynamic than what you would expect. The tracks are dynamic and fuel-driven by hatred from the lower depths of hell.
My main complaint about the album though is the production, or lack thereof. The instruments languish in over-distortion hell with poor distinction between instruments and far too much reverb in their sound. I see where they were going with trying to capture that raw sound that so many bands are shooting for, but the problem with obtaining that utopia of the perfect raw sound is that a subtle misstep in tone because a huge misstep when listening to the final product.
While the album is far from perfect, The Sanctum of Human Darkness is an album that will grow on you. Give it a few listens and you will enjoy it as much as I do too. With the production issues aside, The Sanctum of Human Darkness ends up being a very nice death metal release.
Desolate Shrine Lineup:
L.L. – All instruments
M.L. – Vocals
R.S. – Vocals