Ethereal Shroud was originally formed back in 2013 by Joseph Hawker as a way to anonymously test the waters with the sound he wished to perfect, his slant on Atmospheric Black Metal, and something that was “denser, a more complex soundscape of Black/Doom Metal with ambitious, challenging song structures and epic, emotional and vivid melodies.”
Ethereal Shroud: Trisagion (Northern Silence Productions /Throne Records)
Release Date: Out Now (digital) – 10 December 2021 (CD)
Words: Jools Green
Hawker subsequently released the three-track, sixty-minute monster, They Became The Falling Ash, in 2015, and when you unleash something that good, particularly the final track Echoes In The Snow, something that atmospheric and moving on the world, anonymity goes out the window.
Six years on, and he is back with another ambitious and epic offering, Trisagion, also just three tracks, but again clocking up over sixty minutes. If you thought They Became The Falling Ash was good, you will love this album even more, where, rather than building on his past success, he has approached this like a separate entity, creating a new vision, but still unmistakably Ethereal Shroud.
For this release, Joseph has enlisted the help of Richard Spencer (Ba’al) on bass and viola and John Kerr (Marsh Dweller, Pyrithe, Vit, Seidr) on drums. The new blood brings a fresh slant to the sound.
The opening track, the almost twenty-eight-minute Chasmal Fires, featuring Shannon Greaves as guest vocalist, is a hugely immersive piece, as is the whole album. It seems on the surface an easy listen, it’s easy to lose yourself within the music, but the hardest thing is taking everything on board, at least initially. It is a complex and varied journey, filled with a dark, haunting melody, the tortuous harsh vocals searing through from beneath. I did find myself repeatedly drawn to the drum work, which emerges in waves adding even more depth and interest to a track deep enough to drown in.
The second track, Discarnate, is an utterly beautiful piece, made partly so by the superbly phrased drum work, which adds an extra edge and texture. It is a deceptively powerful piece of work, wistfully haunting, darkly reflective and evoking all manner of emotions as you listen. A slow builder that creeps up on you in subtle blackened waves with delicate atmospheric touches that add to the sound often without you consciously realising they are there.
The final piece for the digital copy, Astral Mariner, with haunting keyboards at its open and close, is again hugely evocative. There is a repeating, very fluid ebbing from the doomy reflective segments to the brutal driving ones with that undercurrent of distant tortuous blackened vocals. It has an unnerving quality but is also a cathartic and immersive listen.
If you are one of the lucky few with a pre-order of a physical copy, you will also get the bonus track Lanterns. To give you an idea of just how good this album is, all CD copies of the album from the Ethereal Shrouds Bandcamp page are already sold out in advance.
I was under the assumption that the cassette would be available later, along with the vinyl. However, mid-way through my writing this review, Joseph announced Trisagion would be the final Ethereal Shroud album. Apparently, this was planned from the beginning, so I am not entirely sure, but follow the band’s Facebook page for updates just in case they become available and for news of his future projects.
The album is also available from various streaming platforms.