Shroud of Despondency

I owe Wisconsin’s Shroud of Despondency a huge apology. They sent me 2011s Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion last year for review, and I just never got around to reviewing in. In part because of my review backlog and in part because their take on folky, woodsy, progressive black metal wasn’t sitting well with me at the time. Sorry guys.

But to their credit, they sent me this years follow up, Pine. And for a while it was almost doomed to the same fate as Dark Mediation In Monastic Seclusion  but when I put on Pine for a cursory preview listen, expecting more Agalloch-y grey metal, I was taken aback. After the expected atmospheric fire crackling and banjo intro “Wanderlust (Winged Seed in the Breeze)”  the band exploded from the speakers with “Overshadow” and it appears Shroud of Despondency aren’t just despondent anymore, they are seething.

Displaying a more aggressive tone that’s more full on black metal and even some death metal, Shroud of Despondency have mixed their folky, damp hues with a much more vitriolic take that adds a whole new level to the band’s moody, somber sound. And while the band still has plenty of rural, organic elements (mainly the Wanderlust named tracks), the new snarl has me very impressed.

Thinking “Overshadow” was maybe a one off was a mistake, as “New Trees” delivers a discordant blackened stomp and almost goes of the deep end with some Fleurety -ish chords and riffs that are pretty batshit insane, for a band that was previously an accompaniment to a walk on the woods in the fall. However, “Wanderlust (Moist Soil)”, does just that with windswept spoken words and the banjo again before “The Great Sadness Descends” delivers a monster funeral doom lope, again showing the band are far more than despondent.

“Half Open Gates” is more virile black black metal with hint of nervous psychosis that’s far from the bands earlier earthier work, and while still artful and elegant at times and could fit alongside the likes of Panopticon and Nechochwen as far as folky, native black metal (i.e “The Unchaining of an Animal”) , seems a little more unhinged and feral. Where some of their peers are content to tread on wet leaves and wander in Pacific mists, Shroud of Despondency have taken strayed of the beaten path and taken their earthy hues into darker, angrier, more foreboding forests. I mean, listen to “Light Words, Dark Graves”  and “Nameless End” . There’s no way Agalloch could have come up with that dark, dissonant expulsion. My only minor gripe is the production which is a bit rough and could have used some polish to let all this new violent energy come through a little better, but is does fit the sound.

Don’t let the cover art and album title throw you. Other than a few moments in the four acoustic Wanderlust tracks and “The Unchaining of an Animal” , Pine is a different beast that shows a band willing to evolve and trade in their despondency for a more harrowing, violent sound.


[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
October 1st, 2012


  1. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    why does anyone want a polished sound from black metal?

  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    sounds like this is one I should check out

  3. Commented by: Slaveborn

    Dark Meditations is more ripping than, I feel, the reviewer is remembering. Its folky sure but the black metal stuff is rousing. Especially Having been to many of their live shows over its promotion. A lot more vitriol and intensity than an Agalloch comparison would lead you to believe.

  4. Commented by: Noch

    This album is definitely the shit, and also went far past my expectations. Had nothing but good things to say about it when I received it and worked on my review, and it still feels fresh now. This band is a cool surprise.

  5. Commented by: Rory Heikkila

    Thanks for the kind words. We have a slew of available material at our bandcamp site and most of it is pretty cheap. Feel free to check it out. We are continuously working on new material and will continue to do so.

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