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  SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY
'Family Tomb'
(Independent release)


jools green

Jools Green



shroud of despondency

Progressive dark Metal duo Shroud Of Despondency, consisting of Rory Heikkila who is responsible for all instruments and Ron Blemberg on vocal duties, close the book with this sixth studio full length and final offering from the band, the aptly named 'Family Tomb'.

Over the last sixteen years they have encompassed a lot of Metal genres in their past releases including death Metal, progressive Metal and acoustic folk music but for this final chapter they focus purely on black Metal in its rawest and most organic form, unlike 2012s 'Pine' which had a strong blackened folk leaning and was reviewed by me, here on MetalTalk.

This final chapter 'Family Tomb' has been given, as described by band founder Rory Heikkila: "The DIY treatment, recorded on a desk top computer using one mic, one 2-channel mixer and very old recording programs. It has not been mastered and all clipping, distortion and other elements usually removed have been kept", to enable that raw black Metal sound and feel that he sought to achieve.

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It consists of seven tracks spanning fifty four minutes but what impacted upon me, as it did with 'Pine', is the high standard achieved, irrespective of the method of recording. Ron Blemberg's vocals are once again vitriolic and broad ranging, perfect alongside the blackened distorted riffs, haunting keyboards and the dramatically and effectively applied percussion.

'Birth Rights Of The Sick' opens on an epically morbid wave before ripping straight into pure blackness, a vitriolic, a morbid mix of almost bestial vocals, subtle symphonics which have a hint of Dimmu Borgir to their atmosphere and a superbly hypnotic repeat courses across the track along with chunks of oppressively dense riffing in the second half. A superb opening track, as are each of the next six tracks.

The superb blackened atmospherics continues with 'Underbelly' where the extended keyboard led intro is garnished with some superb deep, extended, vocal roars. I am particularly enamoured with the vocals here, coming in at both a vitriolic hiss and a deeper sinister growl, both sitting well over this heavily keyboard led offering although just after midway there is a superb guitar segment that lifts the whole track atmosphere even further. The drum work here is also quite complex; another excellent track.

Throughout the album there is the well placed use of sound-bites in the form of speeches and conversations, some very unnervingly fundamentalist and all with links to the oppressive constraints of religious thinking, which I think add an uncomfortable interest and focus to the tracks and 'In View Of Birth' is particularly well garnished with insane shrieks and spoken elements from an elderly woman.

On 'Where Desolation Is Destiny' the intro is reversed, immediately adding an extra touch of the sinister. A very haunting hypnotic keyboard repeat dominates, overlaid with scathingly vitriolic vocals that have an impressively drawn out delivery and there is a midpoint solo followed by higher profile guitar work in this otherwise keyboard and drum dominated offering.

'The Rewards Of Worship' has a wonderfully bleak repeat that runs through and there's a good rise and fall to the mood and pace of the track, one minute intense and dark the next slower and bleakly reflective completed by superb, powerfully delivered, closing percussion work.

With haunting background chorals, overlaid with deep growls and a hypnotic guitar repeat, 'The Dry Idols' is a track that rises and falls in fluid, intense waves, alongside some very emotive, haunting guitar work fading out so that the guttural vocals dominate at the close.

Final offering 'Blessed' takes on a faster tempo, with intense riffing and pummelling drums, with excellent second half lead work and fade out, where the riffs become subtly off kilter and the bass lines become more dominant, punctuated with random percussive beats.

Personally I feel 'Family Tomb' is an excellent offering and as much as I have enjoyed all the other albums by 'Shroud Of Despondency' that I have heard, this is my favourite and an essential addition to any black Metal collection. It totally fits the criteria aimed for and it's a great ending to a varied and impressive back catalogue which goes way beyond the six albums with a myriad of live offerings, splits and EP's.

But I will leave the final word with founder Rory who stated: "Shroud Of Despondency started many years ago with this idea in mind, this spirit of individualism and solitude and I needed it to end this way as well. This album is centred on suffering and will."

The album is available as a name-your-price download at shroudofdespondency.bandcamp.com/album/family-tomb, as is much of their back catalogue.




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