Review Summary: A complex and consciously artistic metalcore triumph.
On their debut record, Hearts Once Nourished With Hope and Compassion
, Shai Hulud displayed a penchant for very wordy, wildly overblown lyrics that, to say the least, divided opinion. They garnered some critical acclaim, though; and their rather unique brand of melodic metalcore, which owed more to punk than it did to metal, promised great things for the future. It would be six years, however, before they fully delivered on that promise with their sophomore record, That Within Blood Ill-Tempered
. With a shiny new vocalist taking up the reigns while Chad Gilbert pranced off to write songs about girls, Shai Hulud returned invigorated and refreshed, releasing a record so overblown that their first album suddenly seemed the very essence of austerity. It had been worth the wait.
Every aspect of Hearts Once Nourished
is amplified and refined on That Within Blood Ill-Tempered
: Geert Van Der Velde’s scream is expressive and powerful and the instrumentation, while still recognisable from its earlier incarnation, is in another league of complexity and potency. On a casual first listen the music might appear to be a rambling, melodic yet heavy
mosaic; but on closer inspection it becomes clear that what Shai Hulud have created is a wonderfully intricate, tightly focused sonic landscape that never seems two-dimensional. Odd melodic guitar lines flow over and around atmospheric chords, the dynamic always shifting, never predictable; at times caustic and grimy, at others epic and uplifting, this is music to keep you on your toes, even on repeated listens.
All of this acts as an elegant, occasionally visceral backdrop to the aspect of the record which almost seems designed to split opinion: the grandiose, maddeningly pretentious lyrics. There’s no way around it, the lyrical content of this album bares the same relationship to the average metalcore release that a plague does to a sneeze. Shai Hulud aim high
. And remarkably, for the most part, they hit the mark. Written in an almost pseudo-Old English that is rich in imagery and metaphor, they attack and explore topics as diverse as war, parental responsibility and the celebration of creativity. Always flamboyant, and always with an obvious eye toward the artistic and poetic, the lyrics do, at times, seem too far reaching, and occasionally clunky; but even then Van Der Velde delivers them with such conviction, and such outright passion, that they become believable, even sensible. They might bring a wry smile to the face of any listener, but it’s hard to imagine any other band in the genre going near lyrics like this and sounding plausible. It’s to Shai Hulud’s credit that they can pull it off with such flare.
While it might not have accrued the same devotion that Botch’s We Are The Romans
, or Converge’s Jane Doe
can proudly exhibit, it stands shoulder to shoulder with them in its wildly creative interpretation of a genre that so often finds itself mired in macho posturing and gratuitous brutality. Yes, there are flaws: Shai Hulud display an almost arrogant conviction in their own artistry, and the album is exhaustively vocal, with the music very rarely being allowed to breathe; but this arrogance and concentration upon the delivery of their lyrical content is perfectly offset by the sheer quality
of the song writing displayed here, along with the obvious consideration and talent that has gone into its construction. Certainly for any metalcore fan, and perhaps for any fan of extreme music, That Within Blood Ill-Tempered
remains an absolute classic worthy of your attention.
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