“This band would absolutely crush live.” That’s pretty much what was running through my head constantly throughout the entirety of Revelations in Alchemy, the debut full-length from Portland, Oregon’s Shroud of the Heretic. Those scenic, picturesque sounds brought forth by fellow Portlandians Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room are nowhere to be found here. Instead of beauty and introspection, you get a sludgy, slimy atmosphere that will prove hard to wash off, even after repeated listens. The problem is, will you return for those repeated splashings?
Almost two minutes worth of rainfall and disturbing ambience kicks off “The Arrival,” before finally kicking into first gear with simple chords, chunky bass, frantic mid-tempo drumming, and vocals from bassist/vocalist Thom that can only be described as sub-subterranean. It doesn’t engage until hitting the 2:51 mark, where the song gets a sinister “‘Procreation (Of the Wicked)’ for the Millenials” vibe that just oozes dirt, debris, and sonic excrement.
It’s this crawling, uneasy, filthy Celtic Frost lurch that is such a strong component to Revelations in Alchemy, and it pops up from time to time. In fact, the band shines strongest at a snail’s pace, such as a third of the way into “Heretical Screams,” with its haunting guitar melody. “Illuminism” brings a monolithic St. Vitus chug and march to the warfront. It’s the slow, foreboding, and absolutely uncomfortable pacing that makes Revelations in Alchemy shine like a gunk-covered diamond.
And it’s baffling when the band goes in a fast direction in some of their songs. Closer “Blasphemous Rebirth” would benefit significantly from a slower pace, as would the title track. I levy the blame on the production, which is incredibly brickwalled and things just flat out blur so much that you can’t make out what’s going on at all when the pace is picked up. I love speed as much as the next person, but not at the expense of the quality of the song or album. Compounding the issue, the drums are a little too loud in the mix, bleeding into the guitars constantly, while the vocals are set way too damn low. Also, “The Adversary” would make a good intro to the album, and not placed somewhere in the middle where it kills the pacing a bit.
I get where Shroud of the Heretic are going with their first full-length. The feeling of filth and scum given off by Revelations in Alchemy is overall quite promising. With a better production, this would have been a sicker little ditty, but even as it is, I’m interested as to how this band will grow in the coming years. Like I said earlier though, this would absolutely slay in a live setting.