Shroud of Despondency – Family Tomb (Self-Released)

Sunday, 12th April 2015
Rating: 7.5/10

Last year’s Tied to a Dying Animal double-album displayed two very different sides of Shroud of Despondency. One album of black/death, the other was neo-folk. It shouldn’t have worked but it did, turning out to be quite the engaging affair. Since then, the band decided that they would have only one more go-round as a unit. The aptly named Family Tomb, is a stripped down affair that should serve the band as a fitting swansong.

There is a certain quirkiness to Family Tomb that many may find hard to embrace. A raw and primal recording (done on a PC with primitive equipment) and no mastering job, could steer some away. However, there is an element of charm that comes from this that is unmistakable as well. The band also narrowed their focus for this release, cutting out all of the excess and focusing solely on creating a black metal atmosphere. But this isn’t a “go for the jugular” type of black metal affair, in fact there’s not a ton of in your face blasting to be found. Instead you’ll find layers of haunting and tortured atmosphere, such as on “Blessed Suffering” and “Underbelly.” The symphonic elements weave into the mix occasionally jarringly as well, but overall do an effective job of giving each song a bit more grandeur. Interestingly, there was originally not going to be any keys on the album and they were added at the end. It would be worth seeking out if they released this again sans keys, if only to hear the moments when the symphony drowns out the guitar work.

As an album of raw emotion and fury, Family Tomb nails its mission statement to a tee. Some may bemoan the aesthetic of the recording, but there is a definite charm that exists here that wouldn’t, given a more “professional” recording. Perhaps more bands should think about going out on a more understated note, than a full-on explosion.

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