Shroud of the Heretic - Revelations in Alchemy (Blood Harvest)

Death, doom, and dirt...
Release Date: 
10 Mar 2014 (All day)

Now here's some filthy and crushing nastiness. Portland bastards, Shroud of the Heretic, come through strong on their debut full-length for Blood Harvest. Their 2012 EP, Boiled to Death, displayed an affinity for midtempo romps in the vein of Venom or Bathory, but on Revelations in Alchemy, the bands seems to have focused and polarized its sound. Indeed, much of the music falls either on the side of thick sludge or blast-beat salvos. And what is perhaps the most distinctive mark of this sound is the unaffected simplicity of its component parts. Guitar riffs are not terribly complex, but neither are they ham-fisted, and the drums are satisfyingly straightforward while still managing to land on all the requisite ones and twos. Now if this all sounds rather unremarkable, it is only because you haven't yet heard the music, which works within its constraints to grim effect.

The slow passages within some songs absolutely remind me of the straightforward death-stomp of contemporaries, Serpentine Path, especially on the opening riff of Illuminism. Shroud also echo the alternating desolation and claustrophobia of personal favorite, Anhedonist. Stop-start marches give way to menacing, blasted terrain, as heard on The Arrival and the crushing title track. Precious breathing room provided by ride-driven bits is made toxic by ringing open notes. Likewise, filthy ambient soundscapes, heard on Heretical Screams and The Adversary, seem of a piece with the album, not simply tacked on arbitrarily. Vocals roar incoherently in the background, as if carried on some sickened wind. The squalling atonality of riffs no doubt inspired by Portal loom like some intractable force of nature. Blasphemous Rebirth closes out the album with some exemplary blackened death, followed by some equally ugly, plodding funeral goodness (with relatively clean tones, even!) before a total punk-meets-sludge ender. The recording quality for the whole affair is atmospheric and dank, without obscuring the music itself, giving the album a quality akin to hearing disEMBOWELMENT playing in someone's damp basement.

Shroud of the Heretic have offered up a nice slab of metal that touches on all the good points of sludge, black, death, and funeral, while maintaining a pretty lcear statement of intent from start to finish. There is little loss of momentum through the album, so that the total effect seems to be what most metallers strive for -- to be the bringer of bad vibes and the banger of heads. Emerging from the often overcast and wet environs of Portland, OR, with Revelations in Alchemy, Shroud harness the potentially depressive power of their climate zone to chilly and chilling effect. But... can we maybe do something about the album art? A sound this good deserves some equally gruesome visuals.