SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY — Tied to a Dying Animal (review)

SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY — Tied to a Dying Animal album cover Album · 2014 · Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
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:
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