Shroud of Despondency's Dark Meditations in
Monastic Seclusion is a true gem, in the vein of Agalloch, featuring haunting
and depressive acoustic segments that meld with technical black metal riffing.
The album begins with "Looking Out, Seeing One Last Ray of Light", the first of
many strong acoustic passages on the album, featuring dual guitars that build
until the clean vocals kick in near the end, supported by a cool flute melody in
"Parting of the Way" might be the best track on the album, starting out with
some death riffing, melodic leads and screaming vocals (which do serve to leave
you feeling a little uneasy). The middle features a combo of underlying screams
with some clean vocals. It picks up the pace once again, with black metal
riffing and a solid bassline. The track ends as it switches to another acoustic
part which builds in intensity as a spoken word excerpt plays above it, in which
a bi-polar man tells of the experience of an aborted suicide attempt.
Overall, the 3 acoustic tracks on the album all have a different feel and each
integrates different instruments (such as flute on "Looking Out..."; strings and
piano on "Flicker...") to add a great deal of life and emotion to the tracks.
On the metal tracks, black metal riffing carries the load for the most part,
though there are a few spots here and there where more standard death riffing is
incorporated to shake things up. The riffs are extremely inventive, and at times
themes are built up in epic fashion (though this is more common in the acoustic
The only thing critical I can really say about the album is that in some spots
the vocals (both clean and death) are merely average, but they never detract
from anything and more frequently they bring an added element. Aside from that,
I can assure that this is going to be one of the most interesting and worthwhile
metal albums you would hear all year.