Shroud of Despondency are a black metal act from Wisconsin, which isn't something you hear terribly often. Their second album, Pine, opens to the sound of rainfall and the occasional growl of rolling thunder, accompanied by dark, lingering keyboard chords, uncertain, warbling violin notes and lightly plucked guitar. These elements gradually coalesce and melt, resolving into a disembodied voice. Then, Pine shifts into hissing, venomous black metal, as bleak and dry as the buzz of papery insect wings, giving off very little light to read by.
The black metal sections have all the desolation of a pine barren, an emptiness that encourages the listeners to pour themselves into it and become lost, like a forest that wants to swallow you whole. This is interspersed with ambient, improvisational passages, all titled "Wanderlust," like the first track, which is an eerie and upsetting combination of voices (anything from spoken works to agonized screaming), synth and acoustic strings.
The final number, "The Unchaining of an Animal," is an incredible closing song, with moving, unsettling lyrics, clean singing and acoustic guitar, but it's just as grim and desolate, if not more so, than the traditional black metal passages. Pine must be taken as a whole; it is more than the sum of its parts.
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