Album Review: Shroud Eater - "ThunderNoise"

Sometimes, you get bored with eating filet mignon. Prosciutto with melon loses its kick, you grow weary of truffles, you get tired of fine wine and you can't stomach anymore decadent crème brûlée. Sometimes, all you desire and the only thing that will give you satiety is to trundle over to the local greasy spoon and choke down the drippiest, greasiest, densest cheeseburger on the menu.

So it is with Shroud Eater.

Irrepressibly honest and wonderfully open, Shroud Eater’s “ThunderNoise” is a refreshing foray into the world of down and dirty, low production, low budget metal. Coming out of Miami, Shroud Eater is literally a work a day band. Drummer Felipe Torres spent a few months homeless in California drumming when he could to get by. Now he’s a milkman. Singer and lead guitarist Jeannie Saiz does double duty by handling all the band’s art and promotion. Bassist Janette Valentine also runs a pinup photography studio. Shroud Eater doesn’t possess an ounce of pretension, which comes through in their hearty, fuzzed-out, deep-grooved metal.

There’re a lot of parts of this album that possess appeal, not the least of which is the almost metal-jam quality of much of the music. “ThunderNoise” makes it easy to envision the band quite literally sitting around in a garage and just playing whatever comes to mind, eventually settling on these eleven ripped and jagged tracks for an album pressing. The album captures that unique feeling of creating music with your buddies, which is altogether too often lost on bigger, more stylish releases.

While never displaying elite musical talent, Shroud Eater manages to weave and wend enough intrigue into their songs to keep the album moving nicely. The one-two punch of the aptly named “Cyclone” playing into the variable and kinetic “Shark Valley” is the album’s best pairing, and represents the band’s signature idiom the best.

The low-end production value strangely ends up being to the album’s credit in this case. Rather than try to produce an album of clearer quality that would likely have lost some nuance in transition of recording, Shroud Eater wisely chose to give in the other way, and simply make “ThunderNoise” as distorted and “chuggy” as possible. The visceral middle section of “Descent From the Summit” wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without the buckets of amped out gain and overdubbed double kick drums (think “Children of the Grave”-style.) The almost rubbery opening riff for “Oubliette” would have been ruined in a high-reproduction setting. The scratchy, bothered nature of all the tracks is what gives “ThunderNoise” its personality.

However, the production is a double edged sword. The album’s sole real failing lies in the spotty capturing and tracking of Saiz’s vocals. The end result is disjointed and clashes with the uniformly gritty affect of the rest of the album. As luck would have it, many of the songs are either mostly or entirely instrumental, so keep that in mind.

End result, “ThunderNoise” is a high-octane, low-risk rush of nasty, teeth-bared sludge metal. It’s an obsessively grungy and decidedly rhythmic assault that is a sterling example of how a DIY band can still put out a quality product.

The album harks back to an older day in metal, when there weren't big production budgets and the genre wasn't bogged down with agents and labels and marketing and image. There was a time when tape trading ruled the day and word of mouth was the most publicity a fledgling metal band could ask for. Shroud Eater appeals to that nostalgic sense of what was, at the same time hoping that it can happen for them, too. You can listen to the stream of “ThunderNoise,” and then tell your buddies. Shroud Eater would love it if you did. Give them a shot. You have nothing to lose.

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