Album Review: Ethereal Shroud – Trisagion

Album Review: Ethereal Shroud - Trisagion
Reviewed by Sam Jones

And now for something completely different. Here we have for ourselves the second full length offering from UK-based Atmospheric/Depressive Black Metal act Ethereal Shroud, yet another one-man band act to add to the illustriously growing list that is this category. Formed originally back on the Isle Of Wight in the early days, band mastermind Joe Hawker soon moved to Sheffield where he now resides. Ethereal Shroud began back in 2013 where the first Demo was released in the same year, but this would soon be followed up by the first full length record in 2015 titled They Became The Falling Ash. The band has remained an independent force which has likely only aided their sound and honed their homegrown aesthetic as so many one-man black metal acts have become affiliated with sporting, however it can’t be denied that following the first studio record’s release Ethereal Shroud went quiet. That was until 2020 where a brand new Single was released, followed suit eventually by the announcement of an upcoming full length record: their first album in six years simply titled as Trisagion. So, this where we are now covering this massive and awaited record by all excited fans of Atmospheric Black Metal. So, let’s take a look inside and decipher whether this album ended up being worth the wait after all.

To open up your album with a 27 minute opener takes some guts. Granted, this album only has three tracks in total yet the record on the whole runs for almost 65 minutes so any audience going into Trisagion understand fully that they’re going to get some lengthy pieces here. What’s nice to acknowledge though is how Ethereal Shroud use time and atmosphere to their advantage, that opening track doesn’t just submerge you straight away within its atmosphere or to any blinding onslaught of ferocity. It’s a slow and building development that sees a ton of synthesisers and ambient samples before the first hint of electric guitar even passes by. As a result, when the blackened doom does hit us it strikes with much more malevolence because we’re initially introduced to a soundscape that eases us in to a comforting albeit harrowing atmosphere. Even when the band’s more aggressive tendencies are laid bare, that calmer side to their songwriting never feels far away owing to the nearby sound of chimes and plucked strings in the background. It brings to mind imagery of an aggressive piece of music that always has the more serene and peaceful qualities just around the corner, Ethereal Shroud aren’t about delivering a near 30 minute assault on your senses and the songwriting certainly benefits from that.

In the same vein as Atmospheric Black Metal the vocals herein are of a loftier and more enveloping nature than some more typical blackened performances. This isn’t the kind of delivery that is going to present itself with raw attire and scrape away at your senses, the vocals here are very much wrapped up within the direction of atmosphere and songwriting Ethereal Shroud choose to exemplify their identity. When you’re listening to the floating riffs, the songwriting is creating a ghostly environment which you feel like you could touch just before it starts to project itself in a transparent manner. The vocals have this nearness quality to them whereby they’re firmly established within the mix of the album and can be thoroughly enjoyed for what atmospheric element they bring to the songwriting however they also share that strangely astral and translucent vibe to them. It’s this tightly walked tangibility the vocals seem to balance themselves across that enables them to simultaneously be everything the songwriting needs them to be without the grounded power ending up lost on the audience.

Album Review: Ethereal Shroud – Trisagion

The guitar work makes this record all the easier to listen to, especially given the sheer lengths of the tracks here. Seeing as this is a work of atmospheric/blackened metal the album utilised various elements that we’ve come to expect from other atmospheric extreme metal projects. The guitar work is the foremost example here as while the riffs provide greater swathes of power they’re never directly hitting you nor do they feel to end once they’ve reached your ears, on the whole the guitar work feels to be running past you and thereby through you so when riffs do persist for the varying minutes they may play for it’s not like the audience is going to feel bogged down in some trap they can’t get out of because the riffs keep hitting them with no respite incoming. This isn’t really an album to sit down to and feel the strikes assaulting your senses, if anything it’s a record that you can easily get yourself lost within since it feels purposefully written and designed not to ever touch the ground so when you are listening intently to its flows, it takes you and wraps you up bringing you to the level of ascendance this record is playing at. Instead of bringing itself down to you, the album raises you up to it.

We’ve covered how this album for the most part is this ethereal and floating beast that picks you up from the earth and carries you away however I feel it’s necessary to comment on how the drums are the main force that keeps us rooted to the ground. Pay attention and you may find that the drums are amongst the most coherent and well-rounded elements on this album as not only do they feel strong in their performance but they feel to be one of the main aspects of the songwriting that is always actively hitting you to remind you of whereabouts you actually are. In a way they act as a tether to the ground so that you’re not losing yourself completely to the more fantastical and spectral parts of the songwriting. The bass drums are great in this respect as they really help to fill in the empty spaces which the riffs and overall ambiance doesn’t always fill; songwriting here may be geared towards a drifting and hypnotic soundscape but they don’t fill much of the background space which is where the drums really come into their own. Take out the blast beats and the more prominent, pummelling drumming and you may be surprised as to how hollow this record would feel. The drumming isn’t just another force the band brought along with them, in this instance they’re a genuinely necessary element.

In conclusion, Trisagion is an album clocking in at over an hour long that manages to throw us massive track lengths and elongated songwriting segments that never bore us at any moment throughout its runtime. Ethereal Shroud gets things just right with a powerful and floating aesthetic with the more rooted and necessary aspect of a grounded audience being able to enjoy everything the songwriting can give them. Atmospheric black metal isn’t my initial go to thing however sometimes there are exceptions to this usually established rule, Trisagion is one of them. The big draw for me with this record is that it’s not going to just bellow in your face for over an hour straight, there are more than enough quieter and calmer periods the record utilises to not only give you the variety required for such a record but to also ease us in and out of the differing atmospheric aesthetics the album harnesses during its runtime. The album isn’t solely here for power alone: it wants you immersed and it wants you to feel completely taken in by the enrapturing vortex this record feels to envelop you with. Trisagion is a quality album I firmly enjoyed even when it’s not something I would traditionally choose to listen to. Alongside Mare Cognitum’s latest full length offering, Ethereal Shroud’s Trisagion is a great atmospheric black metal record to kick back and enjoy listening to.

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