Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shroud Of Despondency - Objective:Isolation

Shroud Of Despondency
Independent Release

Despite minimal promotion, ‘Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion’, the third full-length release for Milwaukee (Wisconsin, U.S.) based black metal outfit Shroud Of Despondency received overwhelming praise and critical acclaim from both the press and fans when it was released earlier this year. In light of the album’s success, Shroud Of Despondency founder/guitarist Rory Heikkila has decided to officially release the band’s second full-length album ‘Objective:Isolation’, which was recorded back in 2009, and when the band was quite literally a one man outfit (Which means that Heikkila took on all the vocals, guitars, bass and drum programming duties himself).
Unlike ‘Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion’, ‘Objective:Isolation’ is quite a different sounding release for Shroud Of Despondency, and one that may take some listeners familiar with their latest release by surprise.
The opening track ‘An Opposing Shore’ immediately gets straight down to business, with the relentless blast beat of drums and fast paced riffing offering up a bludgeoning take on modern day black metal. But while the song may begin with a savage sound, it does eventually taper the aggression in places to make way for some progressive sounding melodic guitar leads and some atmospheric keyboard sounds from around the halfway mark to allow the song to breathe in places it otherwise wouldn’t be able to with its relentless assault from start to finish.
The follow up track ‘This Transcends Belief’ maintains the same frantic pace of the opener, but with a little more melody shown on the tight knit technically inclined riffing and a bit more variation on the vocal front (The black metal rasping vocals dominate, but are punctuated here and there by some guttural growls). But while the song itself is quite strong, the rather lengthy spoken word piece at the end does sound a little tacked on and unnecessary, and stalls the momentum of the album.
‘Incongruous’ is another track that veers a little more to the melodic side of death metal, and in some ways is more akin to the direction Heikkila took with his song writing on ‘Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion’. But again, while the track has plenty of strong elements, it does have a few ideas that don’t work as well, such as the persistent bell effect that features in the first half of the song, and the long winded spoken work piece at the tail end (The quote are read from Nietzsche’s ‘Beyond Good And Evil’).
‘A Life Well Lived’, much like the former track, highlights some of the more melodic and technical influences in Heikkila’s take on the black metal sound, but the semi-acoustic tail end perhaps lingers a little too long to make a genuine stand out.
The blackened venom within ‘Struggling With The Current’ is definitely felt with a vengeance, and counterbalanced perfectly with the atmospheric piano/guitar solo interlude around the middle and its melodic tail end, while the constant progressive twists and turns of sharpened riffing within ‘Wound’, ‘My Carrion’ and the epic ‘Silence After The Downfall’ (The only track that utilises a spoken word sample in a way that doesn’t take away from the song) certainly finish the album on an exceptionally high note, and provide the album with a string of stronger and more thought provoking cuts.
Despite its primitive production, programmed drums and wavering consistency evident within the song writing, ‘Objective:Isolation’ is still an interesting piece of work. And while it’s a completely different beast to ‘Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion’, fans of Shroud Of Despondency’s more recent work will still find plenty to enjoy on this uncovered earlier effort.

For more information on Shroud Of Despondency, check out - http://www.myspace.com/shroudofdespondency

© Justin Donnelly