Shroud of Despondency – Tied to a Dying Animal (Self-Released)

Monday, 17th February 2014
Rating: 8/10

Talk about a split personality!  Shroud of Despondency’s newest (double) album, Tied to a Dying Animal, sees the band veering into two different directions.  The first part (“For Innocence, Beauty, and Those Who Defile”) is a behemoth of deathened black metal with a visceral bite.  Part two (“For Those Who Leave and Find Better Devils”) is neo-folk with acoustic instrumentals and woodsy vocals.  While the two couldn’t be much further apart, both thematically explore the despair and isolation of city life and work together much better than one might expect.

The more traditionally metal disc more than holds it’s own in keeping things aggressive and raw.  Sporting a production that keeps things suitably organic without sounding too primitive, the eight provided tracks offer a frequently blistering yet elegant take on black metal with some definitive nods to Emperor.  While there are a number of moments of tremolo picking (“What You Remember”), one of the finest moments is that of “Over (Coming, Taking, Breeding) which slows things down nicely with a heavy groove at the end that owes some flavor to that of Immolation.  Other moments even provide some Morbid Angel influence (“Clenched Jaw”), keeping a necessary variety through the lengthy tracks.

The folky part two is a much more relaxed affair.  While part one has a more vengeful, angry tone, this is much more morose and introspective.  Many of the songs here do not include vocals, yet captivate in their ability to immerse the listener in the feeling of sorrow and alienation.  Standout tracks “Pollen” and “The Sunset Through Sulfur” elicit this melancholic beauty the strongest.  “The Whore and the Politician,” one of the few tracks with singing, contains some catchy melodies despite its dark and gloomy atmosphere, giving off a similar vibe to some of the darker Antimatter songs.

Regardless of your pick of folk or black metal, be sure to stick around for the other half.  Despite the contrasting styles, Tied to a Dying Animal feels whole and complete, as opposed to two different “experiments,” which is a testament to the band’s songwriting.  If you are looking for something a little left of center, be sure to give Shroud of Despondency a shot.

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