Shroud of the Heretic - Unorthodox Equilibrium (2015)
Iron Bonehead Productions
Review by Trevor Proctor
Back in March 2014 I was fortunate to review “Revelations in Alchemy,” the debut album from Shroud of the Heretic which was released on 12” vinyl and cassette by Blood Harvest Records and Parasitic Records respectively. Revelations was a brilliant album and still gets regular listens - if you haven’t got it yet see it as your starting point for this band, you’ll not be disappointed.
Iron Bonehead Productions announced their signing of Shroud… a few months ago and since then I’ve been looking forward to this one hitting the inbox. From Portland, Oregon, Shroud of the Heretic is a three piece that was formed in 2011 and released their debut EP, Boiled to Death, in early 2012; they play thick, smothering death metal of the highest order and what’s even more impressive is the fact Unorthodox Equilibrium is only their third release.
It’s blatantly obvious from the start this is going to be an oppressive and sinister listen; you get a minute’s worth of an introduction then it’s down to the more serious side of business. The suffocation levels are ramped up from the off as a thick, sinister fog spills from your speakers. Shroud of the Heretic’s music is steeped in both atmosphere and oppression amidst many style and tempo changes – strong, accomplished and bilious death metal, the sort of music that’s an uncomfortable listen yet keeps a sinister hold on your senses.
Unorthodox Equilibrium breaks after five minutes for a temporary moment of serenity with clean guitar and a whispered demonic vocal haunting the background before they hurl you back into the abyss with their intense, smothering, blackened death. The beauty with Shroud of the Heretic’s music is their unconventional and unpredictable approach to song writing, some tracks are dominated with faster sections punctuated by slower passages whilst others lean more heavily on slower tempos pierced on a regular basis with heavier bursts, either way they use every break in tempo to pile on the atmosphere and ramp up the hostility and discomfort.
Track two, Metempsychosis, starts in a fairly inconspicuous manner with some clean guitar notes and a few drum beats but this brief intro effectively builds atmosphere and lulls you into a thinly veiled sense of serenity, the pace slowly building for around three minutes, holding your attention and keeping you well and truly stuck to the speakers. I’d regard Metempsychosis as the slowest track on the album but it’s every bit as crushing as the others, it’s a slow, all-encompassing and murky beast of a track that surrounds you from start to finish with its haunting and foreboding atmosphere.
Longer track length isn’t exactly new ground for Shroud of the Heretic as four tracks from Revelations in Alchemy bypassed the seven minute mark but with this album they really let loose, cranking up an average of over ten minutes with each of these devastatingly heavy beauties. In recent times longer track lengths have been increasingly common, especially within this type of death metal, but for a band to release an album with four tracks averaging over ten minutes each is a mark of both confidence and song writing ability – both of which Shroud of the Heretic have by the bucket full.
The longer song durations also let the band create and explore many devastating and crushing soundscapes with mood and tempo changes aplenty there’s no chance of this death metal masterclass becoming tired or repetitive as there’s no predictable formula whatsoever to their song structure. There are numerous examples of these during the album; whether it’s the prog-like clean guitar work in the middle of track three, Sprawling Black Mass Consummation, or the slow start of track four there’s more than enough variation going on in every track to keep that hold on your attention.
Difficult second album? No chance! Shroud of the Heretic have taken their excellent debut, Revelations in Alchemy and improved and honed their sound even further. To date my album of the year was clear cut but, mark my words; this is up there with the best of what you’ll hear this year. This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2015 and I’m happy it didn’t disappoint in the slightest.
Iron Bonehead’s release roster continues to grow and strengthen; setting a very high standard within metals underground and I feel that within Iron Bonehead Shroud of the Heretic have found their home – quality label, quality band, and, most importantly of all, quality music. The cd version is currently available with the 12” LP to follow soon; there will also be a “die-hard” version of the LP which will include a flag of the album cover and will be limited to 100 copies worldwide, well, 99 as I’ll be snapping one up for sure.
Don’t miss this!
1 - Unorthodox Equilibrium
2 – Metempsychosis
3 - Sprawling Black Mass Consummation
4 - Omega Apeiron
Shroud of the Heretic’s Unorthodox Equilibrium is released by Iron Bonehead Productions