Originally written by Erik Thomas
“Rest assured, this is sincere, this is true”.
Never have truer words been spoken, and as those words signal the beginning of Shai Hulud’s eagerly anticipated, much delayed second album, you can’t help feel it’s going to be something special. And it is. Fully worth the 6-year wait since their genre-defining debut, That Within Blood ill Tempered is a testament to musical passion, lyrical conviction and epic idealism, free from the feigned constraints of tough-guy machismo and hate fueled anger.
The only way to describe the Hulud multi-layered melodic metalcore delivery is by their own words: ‘Neo –classical metalcorechestration”. Instead of using hardcore’s innate angst, Shai Hulud use their deeply personal epic sound to convey messages of hope, faith and conviction, not in a Christian or straight edge in your face sense, but with a genuine concern for humanity and its constant spiral into oblivion. Unfettered by the usual hardcore structures, Hulud instead weave deep, intricate multi-textured anthems, free from breakdowns, chest pounding self-promotion and no neck generics.
One glance at the lyrics alone will send shivers down your spine, and when delivered with a glorious metal hymnal approach it’s hard not to be moved. Let me give you an example from “Being Exemplary”:
“And this is what the children shall learn. Prepare for the lowest standard, rough diamonds on the palms of fools, unable to give the crucial gift of reason. What more can be expected of a child? Being a product of the stark worst-it’s a fathers blood”.
No “fuck you, I’ll kick your ass” needed there. And when shouted by new vocalist Geert van Der Velde, with an almost sobering gospel like quality, they strike with tenfold effectiveness. The songs are still rendered with complex harmonies and melodies, but with a less reliance on power chords that were prevalent on Hearts Once Nourished…, instead the structures are unpredictable, complex but at the same time completely overwhelming in their harmony. A sound I imagine that would be hard to convey live, as guitars of Matthew Fletcher and Mathew Fox, rarely settle into a single definable riff, rather constantly shifting from heroic layer to transcendent melody effortlessly.
I recently heard an album by a band called Foredirelifesake, that tried to mimic this sound, and while the complexity was there it simply lacked the sublime opening bars of “Let Us at last Praise the Colonizers of Dreams”, and its subsequent metalcore laced overtures of hope.
Quite simply put there isn’t a single song on this album that didn’t affect me deeply to the core, the opening of “The Consummate Dragon”, is an uplifting war-cry of dissent in the face of deceit. Hulud are capable of unleashing their consonant beast in rare fashion, as the unusually controlled “Whether to Cry or Destroy”, displays their ability to tone things down and simplify their sound, even when still steeped in their trademark anthemic fury.
If Shai Hulud’s unique take on metal can be summed up it’s by the words from “This Song: For the True and passionate lovers of Music”: This is a song for the impassioned, this is strength for hearts on sleeves- a shining sentiment where voices soar and melody well tears in the eyes”. –And they do, believe me.
Those with a shallow musical disposition need not apply. As the album ends with the fittingly titled “Ending the Perpetual Tragedy”, a rare seven minute opus that suitably ends the album with sobering closure, you wonder how this band does it while all around them simply clone the stomping, fist pumping, group mentality of hardcore.
To put this in more tangible terms, Shai Hulud are named after the giant worms in Frank Hebert’s “Dune”, and basically there are two groups of thought for that movie. First you either thought is was a pretentious overblown, drawn out, over artistic pile of ass. Or you thought it was a magnificent deep, thoughtful, and grandiose form of lucid art. Many will be torn the same way about Shai Hulud, but there’s no doubt where I stand with this magnificent piece of music (metal is far to a constricting term) Only a slightly tinny production holds this from receives 666 perfection, but it’s still my album of the year thus far, and with any luck the next one wont be another 6-year wait.
End Note: Shortly after this review was written, Shai Hulud announced they were splitting up. This not only solidifies this album as a classic and testament to the band’s talent, but also as a somber endnote on a short but brilliant career. “Let not Bitter Fruits Sour Your Breath….”