The initial release from the Shrinebuilder project has been one of the most hotly-anticipated events in the underground metal calender since the announcement of its lineup. And really, how could it not have been, when the band is made up of such doom legends as guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly (Neurosis), guitarist/vocalist Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich (The Obsessed, The Hidden Hand, Wino), bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (OM, Sleep) and drummer Dale Crover (The Melvins, Altamont). All four are demigods to all with an interest in the brooding, the psychedelic, the crushing and the doom-laden.
Clocking it at five tracks in just under forty minutes, Shrinebuilder delivers on what so many supergroups promise, but fall short of – a truly collaborative effort between staggeringly talented and influential musicians. Written and recorded within the space of just three days, Shrinebuilder manages to sound more cohesive than many albums pored over for a much longer amount of time. Sure, you can play a game of ‘spot who wrote this part’ while listening – Scott Kelly puts forth his trademark avalanche-heavy riffage, Wino his bluesy rhythms and vibrato-heavy, soulful leads, Al Cisneros his mantra-like, hypnotic bass playing – but rather than sounding like chunks of each of the key players’ bands’ tracks awkwardly stitched together, the material flows organically, with each member of the band adapting to the shifting, metamorphosising requirements of the songs as they evolve.
For instance, see opening track, ‘Solar Benediction’, which comes roaring out of the gates with a Sabbathian riff, which is quickly followed by a typically monstrous Scott Kelly chord-steamroller, and which alternates between the two before seguéing into a spare, three-note clean-guitar motif, upon which haunting feedback squalls, Cisneros’ languid bass and a gentle, laid-back beat are layered. See also third track, ‘Blind For All To See’ – which sees the rhythm section take the lead for the intro, Cisneros’s bubbling bass and Crover’s confident sticksmanship backing Scott Kelly’s near-spoken-word introductory verses, before the riffage gradually, gradually swells as the song progresses, rising to an oppressive crescendo before settling back to let Wino’s solo take the song out on a more restrained note.
The production serves the material excellently – full-bodied guitar tones, organic drum tones and warm, full bass supply the heft when the going gets heavy, and when the band gets more psychedelic, the clarity of the mix allows for each layer of shimmering lead guitars, howling feedback, delicate acoustic strummings and vocal stacking to make their presence felt. If there’s a criticism to be levelled at this release, it’s simply that there wasn’t more of it – but since Shrinebuilder have confirmed that this is to be an ongoing concern as opposed to a one-off experiment, hopefully we won’t have to wait for too long for even more expansive, intriguing and engrossing material from the cream of the doom metal crop.