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Shroud of Despondency is a 5-piece black metal group from Milwaukee, formed in 1999.

(Biography written by Vehemency, January 2011.)
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SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY albums / top albums

SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY For Eternity Brings No Hope album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
For Eternity Brings No Hope
Black Metal 2002
SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion album cover 3.67 | 3 ratings
Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion
Atmospheric Black Metal 2011
SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY Objective: Isolation album cover 3.50 | 1 ratings
Objective: Isolation
Black Metal 2011
SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY Pine album cover 4.08 | 2 ratings
Black Metal 2012
SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY Tied to a Dying Animal album cover 4.00 | 2 ratings
Tied to a Dying Animal
Black Metal 2014


SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY Orwell / Shroud of Despondency album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Orwell / Shroud of Despondency
Black Metal 2011


SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY Of Nightfall's Silence album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Of Nightfall's Silence
Black Metal 2000

SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY re-issues & compilations




SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY Tied to a Dying Animal

Album · 2014 · Black Metal
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Tied to a Dying Animal (2014) is the fifth full-length album by US black metal act Shroud of Despondency. Tied to a Dying Animal is a two disc effort that uses each disc to explore two extremes of music; metal on disc one and folk music on disc two. Each disc carries its own title so in a sense Tied to a Dying Animal can be considered as two albums in one. There are some role changes for the musicians between the two discs as well and in general the folk disc uses a much wider range of instruments.

This is my first experience with the music of Shroud of Despondency but as a known metal act it can be assumed that the first disc, entitled For Innocence, Beauty, and Those Who Defile, of Tied to a Dying Animal is the more business as usual side of the album. The music is clearly a black metal affair but there are strong death metal elements to it as well, particularly through the use of deeper growling vocals which are quite the common occurrence. Some parts of the album are really quite progressive too, especially a track like Long Hours though I'm not sure I'd call this side of the album a progressive black metal album as such as I think that there's equal time where the band stick to basics. The music is generally well composed and enjoyable with some moments of true greatness to be found (the aforementioned Long Hours is an easy highlight) but there are also some moments where I just get the impression that Shroud of Despondency aren't doing all that much that I haven't heard before. It takes a couple of tracks before it really starts to pick up and deliver, in my view.

That brings me to the second disc of Tied to a Dying Animal, entitled For Those Who Leave and Find Better Devils. It's not an uncommon thing that Shroud of Despondency have done here by exploring a different direction although it's less common to see a release like Tied to a Dying Animal where it's all presented as one album but I guess that's the benefit of releasing your album yourself; you get to make all the rules. Opeth were going to do this with Deliverance (2002) and Damnation (2003) but ultimately didn't because of their record label. The music here is acoustic folk music with a focus on instrumental work though there are vocals also used. I'd call it dark folk because of the atmosphere, which is quite fitting to put alongside black metal in my opinion but that's where an inconsistency arises with Tied to a Dying Animal, the metal disc is a quite direct and intense black metal effort that doesn't seem to have much time for atmosphere. I guess that's intentional given the nature of the album as a whole, one direct and heavy record and one mellow atmospheric record, but it's just the first of things that suggest to me that though Tied to a Dying Animal is a solid effort regarding both discs, it's much more of a missed chance overall.

Indeed I think Tied to a Dying Animal is a case where the whole would be greater than the sum of its parts. I like the metal disc. I like the folk disc. I'd prefer to hear them clash rather than be separated as they are, something I have the impression could have resulted in a much more interesting, coherent and consistent single disc album, as both discs tend to have their weaker moments. With that said despite my feelings on what could have been and a few ups and downs Shroud of Despondency have a really good album here, so I think that rating it at less than 4 stars would be doing it a disservice. Despite its faults this is definitely an album worth owning if you enjoy black metal acts who like to experiment and explore outside ideas.


(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven:

SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY Tied to a Dying Animal

Album · 2014 · Black Metal
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Shroud of Despondency's sound takes inspiration from an eclectic pool of sources, but if one were to deconstruct their music into only two basic elements, black metal and acoustic folk would be the most important. 2014's Tied to a Dying Animal explores this idea of 'musical deconstruction' in an album format. Spread out over a lengthy double-disc playing time, Shroud of Despondency's fifth observation separates the two major aspects of their music, effectively resulting in the band's heavy and light sounds residing in total isolation from one another. Not unlike Opeth's Damnation and Deliverance duo, one disc of Tied to a Dying Animal sounds nothing like the other, and the the result is nothing short of an intriguing experiment that highlights Shroud of Despondency's competence as both a pure extreme metal act and a darkly contemplative folk act.

The first disc showcases Shroud of Despondency's most lethal take on black metal yet, and if I'm being honest, it is also their best in this style to date. Death metal plays a pretty big part on this disc too, and using a term like 'deathened black metal' wouldn't be out of the question as there are plenty of times where you'll be reminded of Morbid Angel's hellish riffs or Immolation's dark brutality. Even in the absence of acoustic segments, the band manages to incorporate a decent number of melodic leads and catchy riffs to grab onto - not unlike the Norwegian bands Ancient or Enslaved, Shroud of Despondency's music contains generally melodic compositions amidst all of the cacophony. A track like "The Life of Fire" with its darkly majestic lead guitar is an example of melodic black metal done right!

On the second disc of Tied to a Dying Animal, the listener is treated to dark and melancholic folk music with diverse instrumentation. It actually sounds quite similar to Borknagar's Origin album at times, and that's certainly a good thing in my book. The compositions here are moody and contemplative, and although folk elements were often present in Shroud of Despondency's music, here they are more developed than ever before. Every track works as both a unique standalone piece and part of a conceptual whole. Although Shroud of Despondency doesn't always appeal to "metal naysayers", fans of dark folk ought to at least check out this disc. It shows a band that can hold its own with some of the genre's best.

At the end of the day, I think Shroud of Despondency's best albums are the ones that seamlessly unite different styles throughout the duration of one CD, but Tied to a Dying Animal is still an excellent release. Shroud of Despondency isn't content with staying in one place for very long, and there's no doubt that plenty of musical growth can be heard on this observation. Tied to a Dying Animal contains some of the band's finest material to date, and although its lengthy duration can make for a seemingly daunting listen, there's enough variation here to keep things fully engaging from start to finish.


Album · 2012 · Black Metal
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American black metal act Shroud of Despondency really blew me away with 2011's Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion, and just under a year later, the band has already created their next black metal opus. Entitled Pine, this observation once again shows Rory Heikkila and company exploring the realms of bleak, nature-inspired black metal, but this time around their approach is slightly more eclectic. Whereas Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion mainly saw the group dabbling in folky black metal territory, this album offers a more one-of-a-kind mix of black metal, death metal, folk, progressive rock, doom metal, and post rock of the utmost quality. Pine is a very successful album in my eyes that, while still maintaining all the great things about Shroud of Despondency's previous efforts, shows a distinct evolution in the group's music.

Of course, the Shroud of Despondency's core sound is still rooted in folk-influenced black metal, but I think the more eclectic approach on Pine gives the band a totally unique identity. Whilst the variety of styles explored throughout this 58 minute album may initially seem incoherent, well-written songwriting ties the various ideas together quite nicely. The lovely "Unchaining of an Animal", for example, sounds like something that could've easily been off of a record from The Decemberists, and it serves as a refreshing change of pace from the lethal extreme metal of the rest of the CD. This, along with other ventures into prog and folk territory, are really what makes Shroud of Despondency's music so powerful, and I find myself constantly engaged throughout Pine's entire duration.

Initially I was a bit disappointed by this album, but after a few listens Pine really began to grow on me - now I actually consider this to be a small step above Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion, which certainly is no small feat. If there's one band in the American black metal underground worth your attention, it may very well be Shroud of Despondency. This is top-notch stuff, and anyone with a desire for some folky, forward-thinking black metal owes it to themselves to check out Pine.

SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY Objective: Isolation

Album · 2011 · Black Metal
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Despite being released a few months after Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion, Objective: Isolation was actually recorded in 2009 and then shelved during the initial mixing. Mastermind Rory Heikkila created this entire effort by himself, and the project was unfortunately delayed by the formation of Shroud of Despondency's current lineup. Thankfully, the band decided to self-release Objective: Isolation a few years later - definitely a smart move on their part; the material here is far too good to just sit around forever. Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion from early 2011 still remains one of my favorites from the entire year, so when I received my promotional e-mail for Objective: Isolation, you can bet that I was excited as hell. The band's knack for creating harsh black metal music that's still eclectic and beautiful really struck a chord with me, so I was quite eager to hear Objective: Isolation. As it turns out, this album is significantly different from Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion from nearly every perspective, but it's still almost as excellent. Fans of Shroud of Despondency should definitely check this one out... just don't expect anything like what you heard on the last album!

Whereas Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion was focused on folk influences and beautiful acoustic passages matched with harsh black metal music, Objective: Isolation is an experimental black metal album with much more focus on weird and dissonant compositions and progressive instrumental sections. The inclusion of synthesizers, weird sampling of John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" (yes, you read that correctly), and spoken word sections set this immediately apart from anything we're used to from recent Shroud of Despondency. Not that it's a bad thing, of course. Rory Heikkila still manages to create an album that is absolutely beautiful and horrifying in conviction, and the outro to "Incongruous" sends chills down my spine every time I hear it. The bleak lyrical topics are also very intriguing - the spoken word portions are horrifying, to say the least. Although I mentioned that this album is "more experimental" than Dark Meditations, it still does include a fair number of acoustic sections; just don't expect them to play a major role in the music.

Objective: Isolation is supposedly "un-mastered", but to the average listener, it's not an issue at all. The production is bleak, rough around the edges, yet still powerful and convincing. That's exactly how a black metal album in this vein should sound, in my opinion.

I can't say I enjoyed Objective: Isolation quite as much as Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion, but it's still a damn good effort that I've had a great time experiencing. Rory Heikkila is really a genius, and his ability to create such a unique release without the help of other musicians is remarkable. This album is creepy, experimental, weird, and still somehow beautiful. Maybe it's the contrast between melody and dissonance, or the contrast between heavy and light instrumentation - whatever the cause, Objective: Isolation is a chilling album that any black metal fan should greatly enjoy. I'd say this is yet another winner for Shroud of Despondency, and a 3.5 - 4 star rating is well-deserved.

SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion

Album · 2011 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Shroud of Despondency has already been around since the end of last century but has always remained obscure, and I’m hoping that will change when their second album Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion gets some proper promotion, because the band is definitely worth of the attention of all those into black metal with largely progressive or experimental tendencies.

Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion is one hell of a 57-minute ride through a plethora of influences I’m able to spot therein, from the acoustic folky beginning track ”Seeing One Last Ray of Light” and ”Flicker of the Ardent Light” that sound very close to Agalloch, to the fittingly named ”Sullen Murmur Oppressive Stillness” with its maniacal Shining influences. Not to forget all those Drudkh melodies on ”Sybil” with the ambience of Godspeed You! Black Emperor in the background... And what's best, the band sounds natural and plays without any technical gimmicks, despite the fact that these aren’t really simple songs, both compositionally and sound-wise.

The production is warm and it’s a pleasure to hear so detailed acoustic guitar sound, for instance. There’s only a few glitches I can mention of the album, like the clean vocal delivery of Michale Jurek that doesn’t always go so hand in hand with the beautiful music behind. Nothing to complain about the growls or screams, anyhow. Another thing that I could see slightly reducing the overall score of the album is the amount of influences it takes from other groups out there, perhaps lacking its own identity a little. But when it’s all performed so well, I don’t see this as a major problem.

Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion is definitely worth checking out if you like compromises in your black metal - if black metal is a fitting genre for this at all. Even if not THE most impressive album of the year so far, remembering e.g. Fen’s Epoch, this album is a clear example of a record that proudly stands above the masses of mediocrity.


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