Anyone remotely familiar with the underground metal scene, most notably doom/stoner/sludge/yadda, yadda, should, by now be familiar with this project. It has been critiqued, pined for, drooled on, and expected to be the best thing to happen to metal since the Nü sub-shit-genre disappeared. The reason for the hubbub? Any doom fan shits them self (and rightly so) as soon as Scott "Wino" Weinrich (guitar/vocals) is involved (Hidden Hand, Spirit Caravan, The Obsessed, among countless others). This is something completely different in that this league of un-gentlemen that he has by his side is simply astounding. Al Cisneros (bass/vocals) of the Sleep/Om camp brings his signature hum of wavy-buttered frequency chants on top of Dale Crover's (Melvins, Altamont, Fantomas) adaptable and impeccable drums. (It should be said that original drummer, Chris Hakius—also of Sleep and Om—would have also been quite a force but has decided to retire from music, at least for now.) To round out the army of darkness one finds Scott Kelley (Neurosis) sharing guitar and vocal duties; the dichotomy of Kelley and Wino could not be more perfect as the two schools of doom come together, clean versus downright violent, to form a perfect whirlwind balance rarely heard in not only metal but across the wide scope of recorded music.
Now that the hero worship is mostly out of the way it is time to focus primarily on the music, a feat that many publications have seemingly forgotten about.
Opening track "Solar Benediction" is the Newton's apple falling on the waiting volunteer below; it is quickly apparent that the laws of nature are on Shrinebuilder's side from the get go. From the classic Masters of Reality-esque clean verses morphing seamlessly into the napalm chorus and finally the bridge, where a movement impregnates the next without permission, both the singularity and the comfort of such sounds warms the ears and rushes blood to the face. Half time gives way to quarter time. Guitars swell like boils and explode as such to finish it out. Eight and a half minutes in and already the listener has been imprisoned by the collective minds of this filthy, beautiful puzzle.
"Pyramid of the Moon" is definitely the stand out track for Cisneros simply in that he has the chance to summon his signature demons throughout the cut. Listen through the first half and enjoy Kelley's almost sexy cigarette whisper and ask him to protect you… hell, even the doubled riffs of the guitars begin to whine for it. As with an army, the cymbal merely counts down the clearing of the land as Cisneros's voice rings from above, guiding everything away from the false holiness of anything and everyone that dares stare upon the behemoth riff with anything other than complete worship.
Both "Blind to See" and "The Architect" simply ride the hungry, red-eyed wave of floating face first in the blood of the previous two songs' aftermath. While the overall timbre remains slightly more calm a sense of everything opening up into a fire-y pit remains intact; a near-cacophony of sounds like these can only be so gentle. The latter track is more reminiscent of a classic Wino, what with one-string, harmonic lines leading the charge and an overall feel that the battle is over and, "Now we drink!"
How to close an album of this magnitude? Take everything you and they have learned and salute those strong enough to remain until the end, that's how. "Science of Anger" plays off of the same formula as the opener in the placement of Wino on the verse, Kelley on the chorus. Cisneros offers his chant, this time a more subdued calming sense blanketing the entire offering into something edible and delicious, an aperitif to one of the heftiest meals ever ingested in such a short time.
There were big expectations with the Shrinebuilder project, and rightfully so. However, unlike other "super groups" (commence puke-in-mouth), the personalities of such well-respected and talented musicians was surely a given in the sense that none have done wrong up to this point separately, so why would they start now? [Neurot]
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