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.
1. An Opposing Shore (6:55)
2. This Transcends Belief (8:01)
3. Incongruous (8:46)
4. A Life Well Lived (9:09)
5. Struggling With The Current (7:00)
6. Wound (6:45)
7. My Carrion (5:27)
8. Silence After The Downfall (9:46)