The issue that seems to always be addressed with Shai Hulud is the sheer pretentiousness in their lyrics. Let me come right out and say I don't care at all about the lyrics (aside from a few choice places where I have to hear the band members reciting them in boring spoken passages as if they mean something, which only happens for one annoying section). Yes, they're lame and overly pretentious. Yes, anyone who loathes Shai Hulud could inherently argue that the lyric "Without pretention" at the start of the second track is kind of useless given that the song is about a foreword to "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien. However, I seriously don't give a crap about the pretentious lyrics, title, and overall attitude of these kids and I'm not going to bother getting analytical about it. This is mostly because these lyrics are not bad enough for me to discount the album for it.
Nope, the problem here is the music.
You see I was checking out my record store's hardcore record section back in 2003 when I came across this. A sticker saying "Florida hardcore, good listen" was plastered atop it. Well why not? I grabbed it and put down the thirteen bucks for it. To this day, it is rarely taken out of my CD case (save for occasions like this). And yet, I have come to find that Shai Hulud has a near spotless rapport in the hardcore community, and even in the pop-punk community where they got a slight fanbase of New Found Glory fans (Chad Gilbert was on vocal duties for Shai Hulud for some time). I was also later to find this was effectively their last album.
Well, as far as I am concerned, Shai Hulud prove on this album that they are simply not coherent, lyrically or musically. Cohesion by all accounts seems to be a completely lost concept for them. I don't like monotone hardcore screams, I'll be the first to admit, and this record is full of them. Not even that breaks the record so much for me as the fact that Shai Hulud seems content with writing a perfectly good riff, then slowing or speeding up the tempo, and finally playing a completely different riff that has absolutely no relation to the original one (and is usually not any good). Repeat this process about a thousand times and you have That Within Blood Ill-Tempered.
Why? I just want a song with a decent amount of structure. I mean, I listen to bands that can be insanely random: The Dillinger Escape Plan, Between The Buried And Me, PsyOpus, all sorts of technical metal bands. But the thing that seperates them from this band is that those bands know how to connect ideas. Shai Hulud clearly has no clue how to do this. They go from one riff on a very basic scale (usually E minor, which the actual "good" riffs on this album have a major overreliance on), then switch to a completely random chord that has no relation to anything at a tempo that has even less relation to anything over and over again, and ultimately make me turn the CD player off. I cannot tell you the number of times I have attempted to give this album a chance and have just decided I'd rather listen to a band who knows what they're doing.
Even my favorite song on here infuriates me with how much these guys can ruin a perfectly good formula. That song is "Two And Twenty Misfortunes" and feel free to take a listen to it to see what I mean. The song makes it just thirty seconds over the two minute mark before becoming a total exercise in annoyance. It is past the point of being bad... it seriously just makes me think to myself, "Look you stupid jerks, this song had PROMISE. Why do you have to completely ruin it in favor of stupid extensions on a great riff?!" It really is completely and totally frustrating to see so much potential wasted like this in almost every song on this record. They all seem decent enough when they start, a good enough riff comes by, an actual sort of melody, and then we have to shift to something else that is rendered completely meaningless. Consider this and the fact that that is the farthest any song on this record reaches before hitting that annoying area and you'll see why I'm lambasting it.
So why a two and not a zero? Because the band clearly knows what they're doing; they have talent and there are good, albeit fleetingly good, riffs on here. I am sure there are good albums in their discography before this one. That being said, this is simply not one of them. I will have no difficulty sliding it back into my case of CD's where it will probably stay until I get the unreasonable urge to give it another chance. And then, of course, I will be sorely disappointed all over again.