Some albums are perfect to listen to on a cold, rainy day - just turn off the lights, put on a good pair of headphones, and simply let the music immerse you. Shroud of Despondency's Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion is one of those albums that is perfect to experience in the previous scenario. This is a bleak, dark, and beautiful album that will take many spins to understand, but it's ultimately a rewarding listen that toys with your emotions and keeps you coming back for more. This band manages to seamlessly blend acoustic folk music with raging, evil black metal - and the end result is nothing short of satisfying. This isn't a happy album - from what I've gathered from the lyrics, it's mostly focused on death, depression, and suicide, but it further expands on the unbeatable atmosphere that Shroud of Despondency has created here. If you want to hear top-notch black metal that still has a gentler side, Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion is one of the most recommendable albums I can think of from the last 10 years.
The music on Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion is an atmospheric mix of black metal and folk music, somewhat in the vein of Agalloch. There are also some more progressive touches that nod towards bands like Enslaved or Opeth. Songs like "Seeing One Last Ray of Light", "Sybil", or "Flicker of the Ardent Light" accentuate Shroud of Despondency's acoustic side, whereas songs like "Homo Homini Lupus" or "Sullen Murmur Oppressive Stillness" show their heavier sound. The variation between the hypnotic acoustic hymns and raging black metal fury is part of what makes Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion such an excellent album. Never once on this entire hour-long opus did I notice a "samey" feeling. This band manages to seamlessly blend angry and morose music, resulting in a bleak and depressing black metal masterpiece.
The production on Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion is absolutely killer. It conveys Shroud of Despondency's heavier side perfectly while also sounding excellent when it comes to acoustic sections. This reminds me of a warm sounding 70's prog rock record, which of course is a good thing.
Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion is a stellar album by Shroud of Despondency that is sure to please people who aren't allergic to some prog and folk in their black metal. I must confess that I was completely blown away by Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion - this album is mandatory listening on a dark, rainy day. I will go with a big 4 star rating here, though I was tempted to go higher. Fans of atmospheric and, dare I say, "beautiful" black metal will definitely want to put this high on their wish list.
1. Seeing One Last Ray Of Light
2. Homo Homini Lupus
3. Parting Of The Way
5. Sullen Murmur Oppressive Stillness
6. Flicker Of The Ardent Light
7. To Glisten In All The Colors Of Distress