Dark Descent Records has more than been on a roll since 2012 (which seems to be continuing into 2013 as well). Desolate Shrine’s sophomore album, “The Sanctum of Human Darkness” released alongside Maveth’s “Coils of the Black Earth” late December of 2012 and in my opinion stands as one of the best and unfortunately one of the most underrated records of 2012.

Those that heard Desolate Shrine’s 2010 debut, “Tenebrous Towers” have a general idea of what they can expect to hear this time around. If you take “Tenebrous Towers” crank the volume add even more visceral, grinding vocals and a more noxious atmosphere then this is what you get, “The Sanctum of Human Darkness.” This record is delivers an unparalleled level of nihilism and successfully creates a bleak atmosphere that seems to force itself upon you through a very head on and uncompromising approach without having to be played at a blistering fast pace throughout the entirety of the album. The guitars on this record seem to be all over the place. From time to time you might get a bone crushing riff that takes you back to the early days of death metal. Other times you may get a bleak and harmonic doom driven riff that sounds like it could fit well into some of the later Deathspell Omega material or current Marduk. This album does tend to steer clear of overly technical composition, most likely on purpose. What really stood out to me on this album was the vocals. The pitch seems to shift from high to low to just incoherent shouting. I would even venture to say that as with the band’s previous effort the vocals are the main draw for me. The higher pitched vocal offerings aren’t really easy for me to articulate. I think it’s something that just needs to be experienced and absorbed in the context of the album. Make no mistake, despite very heavy Black Metal influences this album is very much a Death Metal album. It’s just much, much darker than any Death Metal album I’ve heard as of late. Where Demoncy’s “Joined in Darkness” was considered a strong Black Metal album with some Death Metal undertones, I would describe “Sanctum of Human Darkness” as the exact opposite.

The imagery coupled with the audio moves the listener’s mind to another place. A shrine of darkness, a place void of hope or any prospect of salvation. A dark temple surrounded by ominous stone statues overlooking a sacrificial altar. “The Sanctum of Human Darkness” is an audial representation of a human being drawing their final breath. This truly gives meaning to the old term we’re all so familiar with and have no problem reciting like a cheesy movie quote, (despite it’s true meaning being diluted over the years) “Only death is real!!”

“The Sanctum of Human Darkness” is death presented in an audio format delivered with the most primal fury imaginable. Sent from beyond the realm of the dead to extract suffering and deny life.