Liminal Shroud – “Tainted Soil” Premiere and Through the False Narrows Review

Earlier this year, I wrote a twopart feature looking at three relatively small, independent metal labels that consistently seem to put out great metal. One of those labels was Hypnotic Dirge, whose boss Nicolas Fernandes-Skog gave up a huge amount of his time to answer my dumb questions, just as he was relocating Hypnotic Dirge (and, I guess, his life) across Canada from Saskatoon to Victoria, BC. Now, Hypnotic Dirge is about to drop the full-length debut from Liminal Shroud, the first release by a local band since the move.

AMG is pleased to host the premiere of “Tainted Soil” from the forthcoming Through the False Narrows, which releases on November 20th. Opening in slow, claustrophobic and doom-laden tones, with a harrowing black metal rasp over the top, “Tainted Soil” gradually builds in intensity, as pounding blastbeats are introduced beneath the mid-paced tremolos. By its conclusion, Liminal Shroud are holding nothing back, with jagged, crunchy melodies soaring over grinding bass and pummelling drums in a raw, black metal maelstrom.1

For the last four days the Vale of York, UK, where I live, has been sitting beneath a layer of damp, misty fog. Although this has made me and my toddler fairly irascible, it is, conveniently, the ideal conditions in which to appreciate Canadian black metallers Liminal Shroud. Formed in 2017, the trio dropped a viciously raw self-titled EP the following year, the four tracks of which, in reimagined form, make up the backbone of their debut album, Through the False Narrows. Their utterly indecipherable, but very cool, logo2 reminds me of the dark, misty forests of their home on Canada’s west coast and from which they draw a lot of inspiration, both musically and lyrically. Tradition dictates that I ask some incredibly insightful question at this point in my review – you know, something like: Do Liminal Shroud successfully navigate Through the False Narrows or are they simply unable to see the wood for the trees? – but, frankly, the fact we are premiering a track from the album probably gives you some idea where this review is headed.

Liminal Shroud’s onslaught blankets the listener in organic black metal, which embodies the dank wilds of their home region. Claustrophobic and oppressive in its intensity, Through the False Narrows doesn’t try to be the outright heaviest, nor the fastest, although lightning tremolos and battering drums are there at times. Instead, the defining characteristic is a sort of natural rawness, supplemented by forlorn harmonies (epic opener “A Hollow Visage”) and brief spells of folky acoustic melodies (“To Forget”). As a trio, Liminal Shroud eschew the ‘wall of sound’ approach, delivering in its place a direct, slightly stripped back feel, where every bruising note is discernible. Vocals are handled jointly by guitarist Aidan Crossley and bassist Rich Taylor, favoring a gnarled, throaty rasp for the majority of the record, with occasional hoarse whispers woven in, delivering a dose of haunting atmosphere during Through the False Narrows’ more reserved moments.

Falling somewhere between the pitch black tumult of Drudkh and the distorted, howling despair of Hypnotic Dirge label mates NONE, Liminal Shroud layer on the ambience of those wave-worn shores and ancient woodlands but do so without relying on lengthy ‘atmospheric’ passages. Take “The Grotto,” which opens with a mid-paced, repeating riff and delicate work on the cymbals, that progressively intensify, before Liminal Shroud cut loose. Similarly, the initial, brooding doom of “Tainted Soil” sucks the listener down to a dark, lightless place before unleashing its full fury. This is married with lyrical themes of abandonment, loneliness and despair in a hostile wilderness (emphasized by additions like the dripping rain and mocking bird calls that accompany the keys arrangement at the end of the “The Grotto”).

Through the False Narrows is excellent throughout but, for me, saves its best for last. Bookended by 11-minute epics, the record closes with “Lucidity.” A monster of a track, it combines a mesmerizing, almost fragile, melody with fearsome, crushing heaviness and harsh vocals, which gradually relent, falling back into a mellow, almost hopeful, folksy section some seven minutes in. A welcome respite, it is short lived, as a nasty drone begins to ripple beneath the surface and the rasps are reintroduced, before the storm breaks again. For a trio, Liminal Shroud conjure quite the sonic palette, balancing that stripped back directness with enough weight to avoid that truly raw, lo-fi black metal sound, which does little for me (though I know is mana from heaven hell for some). This is helped greatly by the production, which while not itself great, works well to give the album an organic sound, which evokes the nature that inspires Liminal Shroud, without sounding messy or chaotic. It’s worth noting that the record was mixed by Crossley.

This late in 2020, with TYMHM pieces already published and List Season looming large on the horizon, I was not expecting another great black metal record to hit me like Through the False Narrows did. Atmospheric without falling into the trap of relying on extended ambient passages, crushingly heavy without falling back on simple speed and fury, Liminal Shroud have put out the perfect soundtrack to a bleak, dark autumn.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hypnotic Dirge Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 20th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. “Tainted Soil” is the third track premiered from Through the False Narrows, with Invisible Oranges and No Clean Singing also carrying exclusive songs from the album, if “Tainted Soil” has whet your appetite.
  2. Doubtless TheKenWord’s magic sponge eyes can read it straight off the bat though.
« »