There’s some comparisons you have to be careful when making, lest you give the wrong impression. So when I say that listening to Shrines Of The Void, the debut album by Spanish black metal act Sheidim, left me thinking of Watain, it’s a statement I should explain. After all, the last few Watain releases have left a lot of people – myself included – absolutely fucking bored. Instead, Shrines Of The Void brings to mind Watain when they were first making their unholy presence known, when Rabid Death’s Curse and Casus Luciferi lit a fire in the underground. Sheidim put across a similar feeling of conviction and demonic possession, channeling Satanic energies as much as they do Dissection-inspired orthodox black metal.
As this might imply, it would be wrong to hold Shrines Of The Void up as an example of how ground-breaking and original black metal can be; it’s a case of conviction and passion carrying the day, rather than impressing through some avant garde offerings. Razor-sharp, melodic guitar leads cut through the background blitzkreig like a knife, with pummeling drums giving the music the necessary weight and punch required. The vocals are handled with real belief and force, with the production allowing the lyrics to come through largely clearly, which is a plus. Tracks like opener “First Poison” and “Deviant Kingdom” are full of blasphemous atmosphere, very much in keeping with the religious/Satanic nature of orthodox black metal. Likewise, “Sunken Nigredo” has some stunning moments, where a spiraling lead comes to the fore over some delightfully restrained riffs and clever drumming. Even if it’s hardly a novel approach to black metal these days (though the second half of “Amrita” has some fairly experimental moments, at least by the standards of this sub-genre), Sheidim handle it with the right passion for it to feel exciting and powerful once more. It sounds as if they truly belief in each dark ritual and force they summon, rather than simply thought “let’s write about the occult ‘cos that’s what black metal bands do.” It’s a really important point, and is absolutely vital to the success of Shrines Of The Void.
Whilst this conviction and self-belief in their sound is the strongest point of Shrines Of The Void, it’s also the weakest. After all, they’re not really doing anything new with the orthodox black metal template (though that said, it is called orthodox black metal for a reason). If you’ve not been convinced by this style of blasphemous worship before, then this record is unlikely to change your mind. Personally, it’s a style I largely grew bored of some years ago, but Sheidim have given me reason to think that there’s still something to be said for it. All it needed was a band sounding like they truly believe it when they sing about the Satan and end of the cosmos, rather than secretly wishing they were rock stars. If it can win over a jaded soul such as myself, then it’s an album that is definitely worth your time.