Etherial Shroud 01Honestly, I don’t know who is more thankful for the bat-like ears of the AMG senior (I mean this in the kindest way possible) staff; the readers or the reviewers. These old (sorry), metal titans have a knack for finding little-heard-of and underrated promos to be reviewed, and then hunt them down like a pack of blood-thirsty hellhounds. These are the sorts of things that make me proud to be a writer (and for years, a reader) of Angry Metal Guy. This review and this band are the perfect example of the prowess exhibited by the Chief AMGers. Though it was released a couple weeks ago, Ethereal Shroud’s They Became the Falling Ash refuses to be overlooked in the promo box and it has convinced more than one writer that it deserves praise.

I absolutely love me a good atmospheric black metal album; the kind that drags you deep into its ambience and leaves you wondering where the hell you’ve driven to when it ends. Vallendusk’s Black Clouds Gathering being an album that comes to mind. But what if you could drag those atmospheric qualities across a tone of dooms and drones that weep of hopelessness and fuck-the-world-isms? The result would undoubtedly be the UK-based Ethereal Shroud; the one-man project led by Joe Hawker. At home in the ranks of the “unsigned,” Hawker has delivered some impressive material in the absence of a label and has topped the ravings of his 2013 debut. Absolution | Emptiness was a classic case of laying the foundation of a band’s career and They Became the Falling Ash is the fucking mansion built on that blackened brick and mortar.

Three songs and an hour in length, TBtFA is all about the atmosphere, the emotion, and the mood. “Look upon the Light” begins with the kind of “calming” character that precedes darker days. Ethereal Shroud utilizes a few key riffs for each track and Hawker expertly builds layers upon layers over the riffs as they climb and fall throughout the length of the songs; thereby, converting repetition into originality. Beyond the smooth blackness of the opener’s intro, you’ll find droning doom that picks up pace with an addictive chugging riff and drum-splitting wallops that build the song to its first climax. Yep, I said first. The long track (nearly twenty-five minutes in length) is a rollercoaster ride of ups-and-downs that build the suspense and then delivers on it. The layering sometimes results in increasing size and scope as the song ascends, to simply adding a new riff at just the right moment. An example would be the introduction of Hawker’s ever-distant Quorthon-like shrieks in the 5:00 mark of the opener. This addition adds wonderfully to the growing tension.

Etherial Shroud 02Closer “Echoes in the Snow” acts as the perfect partner to the opener (in charm and length). Being the bookends of the album, they represent the essence of TBtFA. On par with one another, “Echoes in the Snow” takes the formula of “Look upon the Light” and expands on the theme. It draws up Almighty Sadness from its doomy depths to rain on everyone’s parade. With all the doom-and-gloom and an emotive riff that could  easily have been included in Dissection’s “Where Dead Angels Lie,” it rides out just a couple minutes too long. It has the epic bigness, but “Look upon the Light” is the superior track here with its near-perfect mix of emotion, atmosphere, and memorability on the album.

Middle track, “Desperation Hymn,” is much more aggressive than the other songs but still maintains that doomy, post-black, early-Wolves in the Throne Room feel. While it builds off of “Look upon the Light” and acts as an interlude between the album’s longer tracks, it lacks the tension and power of those songs. Oddly, this makes “Desperation Hymn” the longest, shortest track on the album. However, it sports a midsection drum build that mimics an increasing heartrate and grows to constant BM tremolo picking supported by the back-alley shrieks of Hawker before transitioning into the closer.

Throw in some of this year’s best production for a black metal album and dynamics that open TBtFA up like a chainsaw wound, and you get a release that has topped my February RotM list (even if it’s too late to do anything about it).

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 275 kbps mp3
Label: Self Release
Release Dates: Out Worldwide: 02.21.2015

  • Not too shabby!!

  • Kronos

    This sounds fantastic, very dynamic indeed.

  • Wilhelm

    DR10 makes me happy and so does atmospheric black metal, but as usual with these types of bands the vocals are too buried; were they given a separate presence, along with a better mixing job, this could have been a masterpiece…still outstanding on the atmosphere, wow!

    • Monsterth Goatom

      I haven’t had a chance to listen to this yet, but what I find funny is that iTunes often assigns an “Explicit” label to some BM songs. Needless to say, it’s often tough if not impossible to understand what they’re singing, even when you read along with the lyrics.

      • I’ve been reading the lyrics attached on bandcamp and I have yet to find one that could be considered “explicit” They’re surely not your happy-joy-joy stuff but nothing I could consider shocking. They are certainly good though. And quite mature. Perhaps that last part is the most shocking considering 90% of what metal has to offer. Maybe iTunes errs on the side of caution and tags as such everything that identifies itself as Black Metal.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          I’m thinking ITunes’ strategy is to run some kind of script that flags “naughty” words in the printed lyrics, regardless of whether or not they’re actually decipherable when the song is played.

          I don’t think the wrist-slapping is specific to BM; just something I’ve noticed now and then on different metal songs in iTunes. Haven’t noticed something similar in Bandcamp.

          By the way, I streamed the TBtFA today, and love it! Epic, Wagnerian Black Metal. I’m buying it for sure. Congrats Joe!

          • That’s what I find funny since the lyrics don’t look like they could trigger such an automated reaction. Unless “god” and “lord” mentions count (spare, and yes, lowercase.) But they are far from being as blasphemous as something in any given Behemoth track for example.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    I could only make it through 5 minutes of that pretentious drivel.

    • basenjibrian

      Maybe Quiet Riot is more your speed?

      • FutureBeyondSatan

        Yes. “Slick Black Cadillac” had substance.

        • As entitled to your opinion you are, is it really fair to rate the substance of my album from the first 5 minutes alone?

          Thanks for listening anyway, I suppose.

          • FutureBeyondSatan

            The substance reference was sarcasm to the Quiet Riot comment.

            Congrats on recording something, that’s more than most can say. Even though I dislike it, I have to give you credit for trying.

          • Thank you. All the best.

  • Thank you for reviewing my album! I couldn’t have asked for a more thoughtful review.

    Thought I’d also mention this album is ‘name your price’ with no minimum at my Bandcamp. Just enter ‘0’ to get it for free.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      No problem at all. Glad you liked it. Thanks for the great album and the cool info about getting your album at bandcamp.

    • Thatguy

      And thank you Joe Hawker for being so gracious and I will be hitting Bandcamp ASAP

    • FYI for people who want to keep it on their library, pay at least 1 dollar and you’ll get permanent download and mobile streaming rights. Though by the review I think it deserves quite more than that.

    • AnnieK13

      Going to Bandcamp right now!

    • Martin Knap

      Just a side note: you made it on Myke C-Town’s (a youtuber) top mid-year list.

      • Oh man, that’s really cool! Thanks for letting me know!

        • Martin Knap

          no problem, I like the album a lot myself. compliments.

  • Emester

    album’s definitely in my top 5 metal releases of the year so far.

    The atmosphere on here is really quite spectacular.

  • OzanCan

    This sounds promising and exciting, Doctor..appreciated!

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      No problem. If you like this style, you WILL enjoy this.

  • metalwithay

    Another awesome review from you guys. I would never have heard about this band otherwise, and I’ve already listened through the album twice last night.

  • De2013

    Listening this on bandcamp right now and even on my shabby laptop it sounds killer!

    This is excellent stuff. Thanks for reviewing this. It got me very excited and will download this one.

    “Written over the last 8 years. Recorded over the last 3 months.” Just amazing.