Release DetailsLABEL Metal Blade Records
RELEASED ON 2/19/2013
Shai Hulud offers an interesting case study in the value of bands continuing to exist purely for the sake of manipulating their own ecosystems.
Reach Beyond the Sun
"I have such a vision for the songs that's really clear in my head. Not once - and literally out of all the songs we've recorded; not once have I been able to replicate what's in my head on tape. For better or for worse. Maybe what's in my head sucks. There's a good chance that it does. But whatever is in my head is what I want to hear, and I never hear that. The difference is what kind of puts me off." - Matt Fox / Lambgoat / 2008
Matt Fox can't stop.
Shai Hulud's guitarist and songwriter since their 1997 debut, Hearts Once Nourished With Hope Compassion, is still trying to bridge the gap between the sounds he hears in his head and whatever it is that eventually reaches our ears.
And he's failing. And that's no condemnation, that's just the hard truth that Fox knows better than anyone. There's no bridge, just a vast and indifferent chasm. But Matt Fox can't stop. And so every five years or so, he again takes the leap and he falls and falls.
And what glorious sounds he makes on the way down.
Reach Beyond The Sun is the fourth full length album from Pompono Beach Florida's Shai Hulud, and the first to feature vocalist Chad Gilbert since 1997's Hearts.
Like their previous efforts, especially 2003's That Within Blood Ill Tempered, it's nominally a metal-core album that trades heavily in intricate melody and an overarching sense of hard-earned earnestness. It's immediately satisfying in a superficial way because of the performative wizardry of the players and the fugitive strands of melody that weave their way around each composition. But after a few listens, Reach Beyond the Sun becomes a hard-work album for listeners who choose to make it one. And it's there, in the so-nearly-tactile-you-can-feel-it-in-your-fingernails effort of untangling it all, that Reach Beyond the Sun becomes a great album.
Listeners who'll tend toward work are presented a worthwhile challenge in "Man into Demon: And Their Faces are Twisted With the Pain of Living." As with most of the best Hulud tracks, it pulses with a nervous tension, which suggests that at any time it could become another song entirely or simply collapse beneath the weight of all the scraggly ideas that the players coalesce. "Man into Demon" plays out like condensed version of thematic-telephone, with the opening melodies being run through a series of mutilations and degradations before the horrible transformation suggested in the title is completed.
Shai Hulud offers an interesting case study in the value of bands--even the ones we're eager to write off as old or passe or immune to the stylistic shifts taking place in the musical universe--continuing to exist purely for the sake of manipulating their own ecosystems. (Shouts to Liet-Kynes).
Their style of hardcore still sounds mostly grounded in an era that many fans of extreme music are glad to have put behind them, and yet, Shai Hulud still has work to do as band. You can hear that work getting done here, in the un-muddled rocking of "A Human Failing," in the compositional somersaults of "Medicine to the Dead" and "To Suffer Fools," and perhaps nowhere stronger than on "Monumental Graves." It's on that track--which matches "Man Into Demon" with respect to the sheer amount of sonic material that somehow gets organized--where the band offers the refrain "true strength is inviolate." And that says it all, because it says even when we fail, or maybe even especially because we are willing to risk doing so, we can still be strong.
That's Shai Hulud. Risking, failing, but still so strong.