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Shrine - Ordeal 26​.​04​.​86 (2016) - Review

Band: Shrine
Album title: Ordeal 26.04.86
Release date: 26 October 2016
Label: Cyclic Law

01. Atomgrad
02. Radiant Skyline (Unit 4)
03. The Silent Apocalypse
04. The Night That Hell Broke Loose
05. Under The Graphite Clouds
06. The Burden Of Knowledge

Shrine has returned with his third release on Cyclic Law. Shrine has always been a dark ambient artist who incorporates mind-bending soundscapes, field recordings, haunting voices, into his music. But never before has he brought the full project into such focus as he has this time around.

Somnia, the Shrine major label debut from 2012, took the listener on a journey deep into the nocturnal realms of existence. With each of the 8 tracks focusing on various independent themes. Nihil of 2014, took us into a darker and gloomier place. Leaving the dream-world behind, Shrine brought to focus deep inner anguish, with tracks like "Hellfire" making it possible to envision humanity burning in the pits of Hades.

With Ordeal 26.04.86, Shrine brings the music to a very specific focus, on a certain time, place, and event. Ordeal 26.04.86 covers the devastation that occurred at Chernobyl on that forsaken day of April in Soviet Russia. The nuclear meltdown that occurred at Chernobyl and would quickly leave the entire surrounding region, including the city of Pripyat, in a state of post-apocalyptic slumber, occurred on this day and would go on to be one of the greatest nuclear disasters to yet face our planet, with few incidents rivaling its magnitude. Though, the current and constant spillage at the Fukushima site in Japan may prove to have an even more widespread and lasting legacy. Yet, it was the unexpectedness and visible terrestrial impact which would make the Chernobyl disaster so vivid in the minds of the people who witnessed this event first hand.

Hristo Gospodinov, the man behind Shrine, is one of these survivors and witnesses of the ordeal which took place that morning in Chernobyl. The goal of the album is best described by Hristo himself, "To me the Chernobyl theme has always been very special not only because I witnessed the nuclear sunburn effects myself back in 1986 when I was a kid, but also because I find it to be the closest glimpse of a pending apocalypse we have seen so far. I find it terrifying not only because of the devastating effect of the ionizing radiation itself, but also because it was a man-made event. To me, the parallel with the biblical book of Revelation is inescapable.” So you can see, Hristo had a very personal connection to this event and it shows in his work.

Ordeal 26.04.86 is a no-holds-barred attack on the senses. Not in a harsh-noise-wall sort of way, but in a more subtle and personal sense which could only be achieved through the style of dark ambient. Shrine has focused his efforts here on building an album which takes the listener through various stages of the event.

On "Atomgrad" we hear the beginnings of a calm and peaceful day. Birds are chirping. The wind is blowing. The day is good. But this peace is not meant to last... As we move into "Radiant Skyline (Unit 4)" a sense of negativity slowly moves in on the track. This comes in the form of some deep and wonderfully textured drones, which mingle with industrial noises to form an absolutely magnificent soundscape. Here I can't help but make a connection to dark ambient legends Bad Sector. The electronic/industrial/metallic feel is spot on, and the track perfectly builds the sense of emotion needed to convey its message. "The Silent Apocalypse" steps back a bit from the action. We hear gauges and a plethora of other field recordings here, but the sense of devastation is not present. This track digs more into a foreboding, a knowledge that things are getting bad, and a need to fix them. As if we are witnessing things from the perspective of some scientist or nuclear engineers. "The Night That Hell Broke Loose" returns to the extreme. The sense of an apocalyptic chaos re-emerges. The reciting of a prayer in Latin can barely be separated from the chaos, yet it gives a terrifying effect on the track. This is the worst of the worst, the moment when helpless citizens can only beg for mercy from their lord, and hope they will hear an answer. "Under The Graphite Clouds" acts as an aftermath, a very immediate aftermath to the events. Sounds of rain and deep rumbling thunder mingle with an almost celestial synth. These blended extremes help to build a sense of despair and finality, a realization that things will never be the same, that life has forever been altered in Pripyat and the surrounding cities. "The Burden Of Knowledge" seems to continue with this previous sentiment. As the time goes by, and the land and people slowly recover and move on, there is a deep wound covering the city of Pripyat, a wound that won't soon be healed. A scar will remain on the land, and even the people for generations to come. Only acceptance of the devastation and moving on are now in the future for these unlucky citizens of the region. The ordeal, which only took one day to unfurl, will take an eternity to mend.

Shrine have certainly released their most personal work to date. This is also arguably their best album yet. The artistic abilities of Shrine, having been honed over the last decade, have been put to use in a masterful fashion. The topic, whilst personal to Hristo, can be seen as a cautionary tale to all of humanity in its current cesspool of existence.  What happened to the Soviets three decades ago is absolutely not exclusive to them. These tragedies could become more and more common place as we find our planet changing to adapt to our parasitic tendencies as humanity. Meanwhile, more nuclear facilities go up each year, begging the question of when it will happen next, not if.

Written by: Michael
Rating: 9/10