Last year, I got to review Revelations in Alchemy, the debut album from Portland, Oregon’s Shroud of the Heretic. Even though it had a few hiccups (such as speeding up things unnecessarily), I was quite taken by how grotesque, viscous, and utterly grimy the album felt, as if the evil wasn’t delivered via possession or fear, but rather through slower, phlegmatic methods. In other words, I wasn’t completely bowled over, but it did leave me wanting to see them progress further. Lo and behold, their second full-length, Unorthodox Equilibrium is here: four songs and 42 minutes of the most grotesque, oppressive, vilest evil to come out of Portland since, well, this.
And if you thought the atmosphere on Revelations in Alchemy was thick and murky, it’s practically tar-thick on Unorthodox Equilibrium. With some exceptions, it’s slower as well, making the overall slimy, dingy feeling that much more potent. With ominous keyboards and slight feedback, the title track marches in with a military cadence. It’s the only one of two tracks on here that I would consider to be fast (which isn’t very, to be honest), and at eight minutes, it’s the shortest. But when the song slows down 3:45 in, Shroud of the Heretic‘s command of heft and griminess begins to show, with their ability to combine Celtic Frost‘s early atonality with their own off-the-wall atmospherics at 5:13, bringing in some unsettling moods, taking the listener to uncomfortable places before blasting forth from 6:16 to the end.
Truth be told, though, the title track is the weakest of the four on here, but even then, I don’t consider it damning, as the other three songs just fit their modus operandi that well. “Sprawling Black Mass Consummation,” (or “the other ‘fast’ track”) starts off decently enough before the atmospherics pull you in at the song’s halfway point, with JT’s awkward arpeggiations layered over a backdrop of Lauren’s double-bass. Closer “Omega Apeiron,” the album’s longest track at almost 14 minutes, provides the most thunder between Lauren’s thunderous drumming and bassist Thom’s cavernous growls. But it’s the second track, “Metempsychosis,” which showcases why Shroud of the Heretic are a band to watch. Slow, fog-like sounds collide with very heavy Saint Vitus dirges halfway through, a bass so thick you can strangle people with it, even odd unsettling moments of quiet reflection… all handled beautifully with the precision of a murderous psychopath who no longer gives a fuck about hiding his or her evidence. Impressive.
So what’s keeping me from scoring this higher? The songs are a bit long in the tooth (especially “Omega Apeiron” and “Sprawling Black Mass Consummation”), with riffs that long since overstay their welcome. Also, the production, while beefy and suffocating, makes the listening experience difficult when things speed up, as the guitars bleed into the drums a bit too much. But with all that said, I found myself coming back repeatedly for my fix of slime, especially “Metempsychosis.”
I honestly don’t know where Unorthodox Equilibrium will end up on my Year End list, or if it will make an appearance, but this is a step up from their promising debut. Don’t let the score fool you, this is some heavy, evil death/doom. It’s also definitely something you may find yourself going back to, unlike sriracha beer.