Shroud Of Despondency - Tied To A Dying AnimalThis album is quite a strange prospect, with the Milwaukee-based black metallers releasing a double album of dark moods and contrasting styles as a follow up to 2012’s ‘Pine’. The five-piece consisting of Rory Heikkila and John Liedtke (guitars), Tyler Okrzesk (bass), Spencer Powers (drums) and Ron Blemberg (vocals) offer up 21 tracks spread over two discs and around ninety minutes in length. A quick look through previous releases such as ‘Fairytales in the Tunnel of Puke’ and the ‘Whispers from an Empty Room’ split with Algol should leave you in no doubt that this is quite a dark affair.

‘Part1: For Innocence, Beauty, and Those Who Defile’ (tracks 1-8) is just over 50 minutes of fast-paced, raw and energetic black metal. With lyrics that touch on subjects such as violence, depression and the negative side of human nature, this is a brutal, misanthropic view of the world, with only ‘What You Remember’ giving any respite from the onslaught, and even that is only for a couple of minutes.

‘Part 2: For Those Who Leave and find Better Devils’ (tracks 9 – 17) is a very different beast of a record. An acoustic collaboration with nine other musicians, these tracks are all shorter than their heavier counterparts on the first disc. Lyrically, they are minimal with vocals mainly used as harmonies to the tunes and a more narrative musical approach. Generally a million miles away from the abrasive approach apparent on the first collection of tracks.

Overall, I liked this album, if ‘like’ is the right word for something so drenched in negativity. It reminded me of the work of the UK’s own Undersmile and Coma Wall, who use the same line-up for two bands, one unbelievably heavy and bleak and the other, a complete 180-degree turn to something still mournful but haunting and eerie. Described as a “celebration of despair, but also a celebration of friendship” this is a harrowing, but worthwhile, listen. Since this album was released the band have announced a haitus, and while no more shows or albums are planned for the future, it is suggested a pared-down version of the band may record again in the future. It seems a great shame after the albums I have heard, that this may be it, but if it was to be the end, this is quite a fitting memorial.

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