ALBUM REVIEW: Opeth – In Cauda Venenum

If you still haven’t reconciled the fact that Opeth moved away from death metal years ago – that these days they owe more to the likes of Camel and Gentle Giant than to Morbid Angel then you might as well stop reading now. Uncross your fingers and stay your optimism for an unlikely return to roaring brutality because the Opeth prog train just keeps on rolling and shows no signs of slowing down. However, for those of you happy with the Swedish progsters’ change of direction almost a decade ago, climb back on board, take a window seat and relax. Continue reading

Shroud of the Heretic – Revelations in Alchemy

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Portland, Oregon dosen’t seem to garner many headlines referring to a depressing, culturally-impoverished existence. One of America’s most environmentally-conscious places, it’s also largely liberal and not particularly a hotbed of unemployment. So quite why this ‘Beervana’ appears to be giving rise to some of the most disturbing and affecting sounds emanating from the New Country in recent years is something of a mystery.

Leaning to the chaotic death end of the market, this debut album from new sons Shroud of the Heretic gives all of what it says on the tin. Abject horror blends with brooding portent, Thom Gunn‘s vocal a wheezy scour buried low in the mix. There’s much of the blackened death of city brethren Aevangelist here, the frantic lead wailings and frosted riffs clashing with violent background ambience, the howlings of souls in limbo evocative of a Bosch masterpiece. Particularly with opener ‘The Arrival’ however, this is tempered by slower passages evoking the desolation of impending doom, leaving a skewed amalgam of tortured darkness. ‘Chaotic Astral Ascension’ reflects its title: a slamming mess of discord and malevolence, gradually falling to a sudden funereal sequence depicting the peace of the rise. The blastbeat-dictated lift from the murk of ‘Illuminism’ is a prime example of timing and effect, whilst the spearing riff feeding the gloom of the title track falls to a sudden, wakening bass and this, with Gunn’s initial emanations building to the pummelling drums, is nerve-twitchingly terrifying.

The problem here is the growing familiarity. When the monstrous Portal first sallied forth it was with a cacophony containing such levels of fear as had not previously been encountered, an immediacy which left the listener needing the loo and a cushion to hide behind. Aevangelist exacerbated this horror but that impact is lessening with each new attempt at emulation and, despite Revelations in Alchemy (Blood Harvest) being delightfully terrible throughout, those experienced in the sound will grimace knowingly. The odd time change will satisfy the ‘noise is everything’ merchants but, to create lasting flavour and identity, something more memorable is required. These guys are definitely capable: let’s ‘ave it.

6.5 / 10

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PAUL QUINN