One of the few metalcore bands that I can truly appreciate (even if I only first checked them out because I’m a science fiction geek), Florida/New York’s Shai Hulud reformed after a several-year hiatus with a new vocalist, a new record label, and this, their third full length record. Gone with the old vocalists are the clumsily worded song titles, although “To Bear The Brunt Of Many Blades” exhibits a shade of the awkward verbosity of the That Within Blood Ill-Tempered days. (As though I have any right to talk…) Also, as near as I can tell, gone are the emo-like lovelorn hardcore tunes from the Hearts Once Nourished era. Thankfully remaining intact from both epochs is the intelligence and anger behind Shai Hulud, that combination of intellect and venomous bite that made their earlier works so potent. Nonetheless, as good as this record may be, there’s a problem: all of Misanthropy Pure sounds exactly the same. Admittedly the bar is higher here than in other metalcore releases, at least in my ears, but nonetheless, this suffers as it becomes just one long track that never varies enough to hold my interest for the entire running time.
Misanthropy Pure blasts out of the gate with the dissonant arpeggios of “Venomspreader,” a one-and-a-half minute microcosm of the whole record, an ever-shifting sea of hardcore riffage, largely and thankfully sparing of the usual cliché pitfalls of metalcore and yet still possessing every positive trait of this most-maligned of sub-genres. There are no clean-vocals save the occasional half-spoken bark, no slow-mo bass-drops, no blatant half-time low-E-chug mosh parts to get the X-on-hand kids moving. The riffs are mostly jagged and angular, jam packed with spindly guitar lines, and offset with the occasional chunky chords. For the most part, the songs are devoid of any traditional structure, but instead seem to follow their own muse in various directions, with some repeated hooks but little in the way of the standard radio-ready “ABABCB” format. Shai Hulud’sbrand of metalcore has always been more challenging, more advanced, and for lack of a better word, more mature than the mall-kid metalcore that gives the sub-genre it’s generally bad name, and I certainly appreciate that, in both senses of that verb. (By that I mean both “to respect” and “to be thankful for.”)
That said, as good as I find this band’s work to be, Misanthropy Pure is the least interesting of the three Shai Hulud records I own. Since the guitars never seem to repeat themselves and the vocals never seem to vary, somewhere between the two, between the lack of a definite musical verse / chorus hook to grab onto and the lack of a distinctly changing vocal approach, this record satisfies in the short term, but fails to transcend. After a few listens, only a few moments stuck with me, like the “You ruined creation!” bit on “The Creation Ruin” or the “A rising of iconoclasts!” from “Chorus Of The Dissimilar.” At the end of the day, this is an above-average release from a typically well-above-average band, and with that in mind, I’m happy but still a little less than blown away.