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Shrinebuilder - "Shrinebuilder" (CD)

Shrinebuilder - "Shrinebuilder" CD cover image

"Shrinebuilder" track listing:

1. Solar Benediction (8:45)
2. Pyramid Of The Moon (7:36)
3. Blind For All To See (7:28)
4. The Architect (5:59)
5. Science Of Anger (9:25)

Reviewed by on October 31, 2009

"This is doom metal reborn out of the ashes; a dark angel that beckons everyone towards its fiery gaze."

What happens when four pinnacle members of sludge, stoner, and doom metal are put together in a recording studio for three days? That’s an easy one; a super group that exceeds any and all expectations. Shrinebuilder’s self-titled debut hearkens back to the days when bands went into the studio quickly, recorded a few tracks, and stamped an album out of it. The strict recording schedule only makes the end result more astonishing. This is doom metal reborn out of the ashes; a dark angel that beckons everyone towards its fiery gaze.

The heavy freight train of doom roaring down the tracks is the by-product of a select group of creative masterminds. With a line-up consisting of Wino (Saint Vitus, The Obsessed) on guitar/vocals, Scott Kelly (Neurosis) on guitar/vocals, Al Cisneros (Asbestos Death, Om) on bass/vocals, and Dale Crover (Melvins) on drums, the talent aspect is unmistakable. However, a band could be comprised of all the talent in the world, but without any chemistry, they wallow in mediocrity (i.e. Velvet Revolver and Audioslave).

That concern is displaced in an instant, once the opening drum fills of “Solar Benediction” kick in. Wino’s deep recognizable voice comes out in full force, a lush clean tone that is still potent after all these years, as if he is stuck in a time capsule circa “Born Too Late.” His back-and-forth struggle with Kelly’s hefty screams is wonderful, a partnership repeated on closer “Science Of Anger.” Layers of guitars overwhelm the listener on the track’s instrumental second half, as soaring melodies blend with gentle acoustic lullabies, building towards a cataclysmic ending.

With Wino, Kelly, and Cisneros sharing vocal duties, the chance of their awe-inspiring harmonies and vicious dueling overshadowing the musical component was there. However, this proves to be further from the truth. The loose playing makes for a jam-like atmosphere, as each of the five tracks have extended instrumental passages built in. An image can be conjured up of the musicians in a tiny room, composing and shifting songs with no set game plan, just letting the riffs flow organically.

At times, it seems that each member has their own individual musical agendas. Wino and Kelly will play their own guitar harmonies, one soloing over another, disconnected from the rest of the band. That sounds like a bad thing, but they have a natural dynamic that makes it works because no matter how long they are off in their own world, they rein it back in to become one again. Cisneros and Crover are a perfect doom rhythm tag-team, with the former channeling Geezer Butler’s “Bassically” in the outro to “The Architect,” while the latter pounds away at the skins with unrelenting intensity.

With only five tracks, there isn't a boring moment to be had. From the murkiness of “Blind For All To See” to the sprawling epic “Science Of Anger,” the band doesn’t add any filler in the form of interludes or pointless instrumental doodling. Even clocking in near the 40-minute mark, it flies by way too quickly. The taste for more grows into a lust that is only satisfied by hitting the repeat button or clicking on the computer mouse to start the album all over again.

Like many super groups, this album has the potential to crash and burn upon take-off. Shrinebuilder avoids this threatening situation by successfully combining all the skills of each member into a complete heavy package. Bits and pieces are pulled from every band that the four musicians have been involved with; a little Neurosis here, a little Saint Vitus there and a pinch of Om for good measure. While this band might not last forever, if the perception of past super groups holds true, Shrinebuilder’s debut album is a testament to how much of an influence early doom metal had on all the participating members.

Highs: Vocal interplay between all the band members, Wino and Kelly's battling guitar melodies, a throwback to early doom metal, jam-like atmosphere.

Lows: Needed one or two more tracks.

Bottom line: Shrinebuilder's self-titled debut album is the perfect representation of doom metal in all its murky glory.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)