Strike the Sun by Shroud Eater

Release date: July 7, 2017
Label: STB Records

I bet you didn’t like whisky the first time you tried it. On first chug it is harsh, fiery and hits a teenage throat like petrol. It takes a while (possibly as long as it takes for a person’s tongue to die a little) before the nuances and flavours can be appreciated. But it gets you in the end. Music can be the same. It took a good few listens before Shroud Eater‘s latest album, their third, had me hooked. The melodies are not immediately discernible; the buzz of the guitar has much more depth than you first think.

And it’s a few spins before you fully appreciate the variety of Jean Saiz’s vocals, which range from a growl that would not sound out of place on a High on Fire song, to a power-metal bellow. But boy, once it gets you, the grip is strong. This is my first experience of Shroud Eater, but the Miami trio have garnered praise for their melody-infused doom in their previous works, Dead Ends from 2013 and Face the Master two years later. And I can see why.

The first song – or the second, if you count the malevolent intro – ‘Iron Mountain’ shows what this band can do. They are clearly not satisfied to follow the familiar doom template of locking into a trudging riff and taking it to its inevitable extinction after eight minutes. The opening track boasts no fewer than three switches of time signature, from sparse stomp to growling death-march via spooky shuffle.

The second song, ‘Awaken Assassin’ has a majestic melody to accompany the dirty guitar. Don’t be surprised after a few listens if you find yourself singing the hook to random strangers. ‘Another Skin’, however, is an instrumental and one of the album’s highlights, a fast-then-slow number which barrels and lurches along in such a woozy way that it reminds me of an evening surf after a few drinks.

After the atmospheric interlude that is ‘Dream Flesh’, the growling, towering ‘It Walks Among’ arrives to bludgeon us. ‘The Unseen Hand’ ups the tempo once again in a song that would be ideal to play while you challenge Rob Zombie to an illegal drag race. It is a monster of a song, with a hook to nab you throughout.

The album plunges into sludgy psychedelia with the closer, ‘Futile Exile’, which allows Saiz to show her vocal chops in the quieter parts. By the end of it, you’re hooked – even if at the beginning of the album you took some convincing. They get you in the end.

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