Saturday, 9 June 2012

Shroud of Despondency - Pine


Shroud of Despondency are a band that I've read a lot about since I started scaling the precipice of the metal scene. They are a band I always found quite mysterious and interesting, so when the chance came up to review their latest album "Pine", I got a little excited.

Shroud of Despondency are a black metal band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Pine was self released by the band in March of this year.

Tracklist:-

1. Wanderlust(Winged Seed in the Breeze)
2. Overshadow
3. New Trees
4. Wanderlust(Moist Soil)
5. The Great Sadness Descends
6. Half Open Gates
7. Wanderlust(Sapling)
8. Light Words, Dark Graves
9. Nameless End
10. Wanderlust(Lightning Precedes Fire)
11. The Unchaining of an Animal


Pine begins with Wanderlust (Winged Seed in the Breeze), which is the first of three songs of the same name. It begins with a brooding, haunting intro featuring acoustic guitar and the sound of rain falling. There are also strings and other instruments playing underneath. This is an instrumental intro to the album, but shows already that Shroud of Despondency are not afraid to use different instruments to create a different sound.

The song fades with a piece of spoken word, which leads you straight into second song Overshadow. This is the first time that you get to witness their black metal first hand on Pine. It's quick fire stuff, with bruising drums and clever riffs buried underneath those high-pitched screams of vocalist Ron Blemberg. SoD use clean riffs to good effect, which takes the edge off their crushing sound and shows more subtle influences and good musicianship.

There are more traditional metal influences at play here. Some of the riffs follow a traditional structure, but they are interspersed with slower, off-kilter sections.
The use of dual low/high pitched growls brings in death metal influences too. SoD also believes in musical indulgence, with the majority of tracks on Pine passing the five-minute mark. The great thing about this record is that it's not all fire and brimstone, but varied and throughout, and despite SoD's obvious denouncement of life (just read their Facebook bio) they obviously have very musical brains. I also like how each song leads straight into the other, without a pause.

New Trees varies in it's pace, being slower from the off. They use twin guitar melodies amongst their black metal attack to add texture to the music. The melodic guitar solo has a subtle Middle Eastern sound to it as well. Towards the end of New Trees, SoD pick up the pace with a whirlwind of wailing guitars and thrashing drums, before returning to normal as the song closes out. Wanderlust (Moist Soil) is another interlude of sorts and follows on the first song. Again more strings and different instruments are used to carry on the story here. I especially like the laid back drumming that sees this song out.

The Great Sadness Descends follows immediately with some more great dual-guitar. This song has a nice sludge groove to it, with chanting like vocals in the background. This is more if a sermon like track and a slight departure from their earlier tracks.
I really like it and think it fits in well with the rest of the record. It's sound is upbeat and the rock n roll inspired solo is a nice touch of balladry.

SoD are back to normal in next track Half Open Gates, as we reach the second half of Pine. The speedy black metal is back, as are the dual death/black metal vocals.
The variation on show here is great, as I've already said. This will appeal to more than just black metal fans and thanks too the production, it's clear and precise. Just listen to the musicality during the second half of Half Open Gates, if you don't believe me.

It's so easy to get lost in the music here, as the layers and textures that are woven into Pine are brilliant. Wanderlust (Sapling) is the third of the Wanderlust interludes and flows majestically through just over three minutes of instrumental ambience. The screams during Light Words, Dark Graves are absolutely rabid and probably contribute to one of the heaviest songs on Pine. Nameless End is a dirge of a song, with a hefty low end. The sound and the vocals are pure evil!

The final Wanderlust interlude is another welcome change of mood, and leaves you with a great sense of expectation as it heralds in the final song on the record.
And so it's too the final song and this is a surprise. The Unchaining of animal is played with acoustic guitars and clean singing. This is a great way to end a record that has been full of twists and turns. I'll admit, it was not what I was expecting but then that was the idea. It's got a country and western feel to it, but that's more today with the instrumentation and at over six minutes long, it tells it's own story.

On reflection, Pine is one hell of an album. You simply can’t label it as just plain old black metal as there is so much more on show here. You really have to listen to it multiple times to appreciate it all, which of course I will!

The whole of Pine is available for streaming via SoD's bandcamp page below:-

Give it the attention it deserves and if you like it, you can download it or purchase a CD copy of $8 directly from the bandcamp page.

Shroud of Despondency are also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/shroudofdespondency.

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