While it would be nice to read a piece on Shrinebuilder without the use of the word supergroup, there is no getting around it. Shrinebuilder is most definitely a supergroup, comprised of Wino Weinrich on guitar (St. Vitus), Al Cisneros on bass (Om, Sleep), Scott Kelly on guitar (Neurosis), and Dale Crover on drums (Melvins). Folks who recognize those names will certainly be interested, but there is something unique going on here that will likely interest people outside of the spheres where their main bands’ influences reach.
Shrinebuilder is a band with a sound greater than the sum of its already well-appointed parts. It’s a mix of big Sabbath riffs set against softer psych-oriented passages. It’s this dynamic that drives the music and sets this project apart from their members’ individual bands. Sure, some of the aforementioned bands have dynamics, but St. Vitus is not going to have Om-style bass riffs go on for 3 minutes at a clip. And Om doesn’t even have guitar riffs, as their fans well know. Either way, this music is special. Music blogs have been burning with news of Shrinebuilder for a number of months (rumored originally with former Om/Sleep drummer Chris Hakius prior to his retirement, later replaced by Crover) and the anticipation has been met with a massive sound.
The record is composed of five lengthy, multi-faceted tracks. (Full disclosure: the press promo only has the first four, but I’d wager the missing “Science of Anger” is just as skull-melting as the four songs preceding it). Lead off cut, “Solar Benediction,” sets the tone: big riffs, Wino’s doom metal vocals on the verse, Kelly’s howl playing counterpoint on the choruses. This is all followed by a lengthy, blessed-out pysch interlude. Next up, “Pyramid Of The Moon,” and again the dynamic between the soft and the Sabbath: some clean, flanged guitar chords under Wino’s voice, followed by monster stoner riffs in the chorus. All this moving into a hypotonic Om-esque coda with Al Cisneros on vocals (according to the liner notes, everyone sings), transitioning into the bass-driven, and clearly Om-inflicted, “Blind for All to See.”
All these songs have not only a strong internal logic, but also fit into the greater flow of the record. The name of this group implies sacred construction, the song titles reference building (“The Architect,” the aforementioned “Pyramid”), and Kelly is quoted in the press materials saying that the project is about “music as a religion.” But this record doesn’t feel like a happy accident; these songs were built quite consciously. Not only what they are, but where in context they are going to sit. These songs feel crafted with specific intent, not just as an experiment, like so many supergroups tend to do. These gentlemen have, perhaps, laid the foundation for a new temple in the metal underground, splicing together saplings from a couple of already well-mined branches to make something, one might hope, lasting.