Shroud of Despondency's sound takes inspiration from an eclectic pool of sources, but if one were to deconstruct their music into only two basic elements, black metal and acoustic folk would be the most important. 2014's Tied to a Dying Animal explores this idea of 'musical deconstruction' in an album format. Spread out over a lengthy double-disc playing time, Shroud of Despondency's fifth observation separates the two major aspects of their music, effectively resulting in the band's heavy and light sounds residing in total isolation from one another. Not unlike Opeth's Damnation and Deliverance duo, one disc of Tied to a Dying Animal sounds nothing like the other, and the the result is nothing short of an intriguing experiment that highlights Shroud of Despondency's competence as both a pure extreme metal act and a darkly contemplative folk act.
The first disc showcases Shroud of Despondency's most lethal take on black metal yet, and if I'm being honest, it is also their best in this style to date. Death metal plays a pretty big part on this disc too, and using a term like 'deathened black metal' wouldn't be out of the question as there are plenty of times where you'll be reminded of Morbid Angel's hellish riffs or Immolation's dark brutality. Even in the absence of acoustic segments, the band manages to incorporate a decent number of melodic leads and catchy riffs to grab onto - not unlike the Norwegian bands Ancient or Enslaved, Shroud of Despondency's music contains generally melodic compositions amidst all of the cacophony. A track like "The Life of Fire" with its darkly majestic lead guitar is an example of melodic black metal done right!
On the second disc of Tied to a Dying Animal, the listener is treated to dark and melancholic folk music with diverse instrumentation. It actually sounds quite similar to Borknagar's Origin album at times, and that's certainly a good thing in my book. The compositions here are moody and contemplative, and although folk elements were often present in Shroud of Despondency's music, here they are more developed than ever before. Every track works as both a unique standalone piece and part of a conceptual whole. Although Shroud of Despondency doesn't always appeal to "metal naysayers", fans of dark folk ought to at least check out this disc. It shows a band that can hold its own with some of the genre's best.
At the end of the day, I think Shroud of Despondency's best albums are the ones that seamlessly unite different styles throughout the duration of one CD, but Tied to a Dying Animal is still an excellent release. Shroud of Despondency isn't content with staying in one place for very long, and there's no doubt that plenty of musical growth can be heard on this observation. Tied to a Dying Animal contains some of the band's finest material to date, and although its lengthy duration can make for a seemingly daunting listen, there's enough variation here to keep things fully engaging from start to finish.
1. A Man Can Dream
2. Clenched Jaw
3. The Life of Fire
4. Winter and Warmth
5. Long Hours
6. What You Remember
7. A Tribute to Barren Land
8. Over(Coming, Taking, Breeding)
1. Untamed Energy
2. The Sunset Through Sulfur
3. The Whore and the Politician
6. Prominent Cross
7. Towards the Source of Wind
8. Coat of Arms