Black metal and funeral doom music is strangely one of the most beautiful musical genres currently out there. Nothing can quite paint a picture like the droning atmospheres of dense nothingness, sadness, and eventual hope. Few black metal records are able to actually pull off this perfect blend in spades, but Ethereal Shroud are the prime example of the genre firing on all cylinders. Plain and simple, They Became the Falling Ash is probably the prettiest musical hour fans of black metal will experience this year.
Joe Hawker is the one-man mastermind behind everything on Ethereal Shroud. Which comes off as quite an amazing feat when you listen to the album. This record is a massive achievement in setting a standard of realism and roller-coaster song writing that can feel downright exhausting at times. By the time I completed the 60 minute journey of depression, rage, anger, and revelation, I was barely ready for anything the rest of the day. That is not to say the album will put you to sleep, but it will do the complete opposite. It will make you ponder what type of story could be conveyed and may even invoke a level of creativity in the listener to form a story from the magic they just experienced.
The sound of They Became the Falling Ash is what you might expect from the very title. The guitars have a winding quality that rise and fall through a heavy atmosphere set by drones and varying drum rhythms. Despite only being a three track album, the record spans an hour of music that never relents. The opening and closing tracks are filled with the ups-and-downs spoken to above, having a much more powerful arc to follow. The sparse hopeful instrumental sections are crushed back into the ground by heavy melodic leads that give the sense that you may be winning the battle, but another army just joined your enemies at the last minute. “Desperation Hymn” is the darkest track by a long shot in the middle though. Being half of the length of the other tracks, “Desperation Hymn” is faster to the point and grinds the listener into the ground with sped-up drums, blood curdling screams, and sharp guitars.
The only thing that could hold someone back from loving Ethereal Shroud’s newest release would have to be how painful the album can feel as you listen. Some may love being thrown under the grind stone for nearly an hour, but others may struggle to take the punishment. There were moments in the final 25 minute track that started wear me down after awhile, but the small amounts of hope kept the track moving forward with enough momentum.
They Became the Falling Ash is simply one of the best black metal albums of the last few years and should be listened to by anyone who loves the genre. The instrumentals have a quality that can beat a listener down for five minutes and lift them up in the process with one minute of slight hope. The vocals are hellish and brutal but compliment the instrumentals incredibly well. Some may have a hard time taking the pummeling hour long running time, but most black metal fans know what to expect here. This is the very definition of how black metal and funeral doom music should feel, painful and beautiful in equal measure.
1. Look Upon the Light
2. Desperation Hymn
3. Echoes In the Snow