Shroud of the Heretic – Unorthodox Equilibrium (Iron Bonehead)

Sunday, 26th July 2015
Rating: 6.5/10

Portland, Oregon’s Shroud of the Heretic made a statement with their debut album on 2014’s Revelations in Alchemy, released to largely positive reviews. In a quick year-and-change, the band comes back for the follow-up with Unorthodox Equilibrium. Pretty impressive clip that this trio of death operates at, or for any band to release a proper studio album in that short an order.

Cavernous and sludgily atmospheric, doomy, occult death metal is the offering, and SotH brings the evil vibes in pretty good form on this consistent, if monotonous, release. Vocals which come across as a ghoulish wash of hellish roaring, as if coming from the bowels of the deep, are steeped in echoic reverb and held fairly low in the mix. They are positioned to be ominous and foreboding rather than an immediate lethal threat, found in death metal of the more volatile variety. Indeed, speed is not really to be found in large showing on Unorthodox Equilibrium, a depressive and slow-pace is more the flavor. Atmospheric textures are provided by way of stripped-down guitar lines, sometimes left hanging alone in mid-air where they are most potent, over whispered vocal passages. With lyrics unintelligible, the vocals serve their role as the malevolent force pulling you into the void, nonetheless.

With production values sitting on the more analog-sounding side of things, the sound quality works well for the band – affording nice clarity, yet keeping the mood murky and very dark. Perhaps the strongest moments of the album come by way of riff, which all said and done, there aren’t very many that stand out. The ones that do, such as in the album’s best track “Metempsychosis” don’t stay around for as long as they maybe should. Just-adequate drumming shambles this album along, and to really point to a certain song over another is a rather difficult task due to the similarities of each.

With four tracks that average around ten minutes a piece, Unorthodox Equilibrium doesn’t flagrantly overstay its welcome, but limps to the finish line, ultimately. This is a journey that will, no doubt, be enjoyed by some, but is best appreciated by a true fan of this sort of plodding, stripped-down, doom-laden death metal. I almost didn’t use the word “boring”.

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