Album Review: Shroud of Despondency / Cholernik Split

Shroud of Despondency/Cholernik [USA]
Shroud of Despondency/Cholernik
Full Length
Black Metal/Atmospheric Black Metal

Shroud of Despondency is obviously an extremely hardworking band, with 5 releases in a single year since their reactivation, and after that a quick follow up this year with their second full length album in 2 years, Pine, then this split with Cholernik. Along with the number of releases, the band has also seen quite a shift in its lineup over the last 2-3 years, with drummer Sundown leaving after the release of Pine, and vocalist Jurek after the release of their reunion full length, Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion. But what makes Shroud of Despondency such an interesting act is the ability for the band to constantly display shifts and growths in their songwriting and musical styles, with the 2011 compilation Objective:Isolation being a rather straightforward black metal release, compared to the atmospheric style that the other releases have presented to listeners. With this split then, one wonders what Shroud of Despondency mastermind Rory and gang have up their sleeves, at the same time presenting bassist Tyler’s other band Cholernik, and it is this mystery that makes this release so appealing.

Following the release of Pine, one would expect new material to go in that similar direction, but album opener Defeat hits the listener rather unexpectedly, with the entire band in an aggressive rampage, rather uncharacteristic of Shroud of Despondency‘s usual oddly-calm atmospheric style. The riffs of Rory and Jon are sharp, relentless and heavy as fuck, sounding like a fusion between the cold, Norwegian-styled black metal and crushing death metal, and even vocalist Ron prefers a low, gurgling growls rather than the usual black metal shrieks that are present on Pine. That said, despite the increased aggression and energy that is visibly enhanced on this split, there is still that thick atmosphere, especially on the slower moments on the record, and the at times mournful lead guitar playing style of Jon that are present in the music, ensuring that this does not alienate fans of the band’s works on the past two full lengths. Perhaps the only track that sticks closest to the formula that the band has come up with over recent years is Shapes. With Tyler focussing on the material on the Cholernik side of the split as well, the band has recruited session bassist Noah to stand in and play the material on Shroud of Despondency‘s side, and provides backup vocals as well, adding a new dimension to the sound of the band’s side of the split. The raw production on their side of the split also adds to the overall charm, and works in the favour of the band in resulting in a somewhat muddy and sludgy tone, creating that sense of chaos especially in the faster moments.

Surprisingly, in contrast, Cholernik‘s side starts off with more familiar ground to listeners of Shroud of Despondency. For example, Acceptance opens with a calming acoustic guitar, and one would almost expect spoken vocals to come in like it has on Pine and Dark Meditations…, and even the lead melody is reminiscent of that of that of Shroud of Despondency, giving a stark contrast to the chaos that was presented by them on the first four tracks. But this calm doesn’t last long as the band soon breaks into their progressive and somewhat avant-garde form of black metal, with the weird lead melodies that kick in, as though the acoustic guitars were just the calm before a violent storm. There is an almost majestic feel as Tyler drags out his vocals in a tortured shriek, backed by the huge sounding instrumental section in the background and that raw production quality. Instead of the muddy sound that Shroud of Despondency has chosen to go with this time, Cholernik instead has a clearer and rather trebly production, giving a more varied listening experience on this split.

While this split has not exactly stuck to the conventional style that Shroud of Despondency is known for, it has certainly displayed the versatility of not only the band, but also of its band members, in particular Tyler with his side with Cholernik, and is a rather enjoyable release.

Related articles:
Album Review: Shroud of Despondency – Pine
Interview with Shroud of Despondency
Album Review: Shroud of Despondency – Objective:Isolation
Album Review: Shroud of Despondency – Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion

Shroud of Despondency on the internet:

Cholernik on the internet:

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