Seattle’s Isenordal smear doom clouds with black metal chaos on gloomy ‘Shores of Mourning’

Having a fit of depression or a dark pall hanging over you after a devastating situation can make it feel like life has come to a stop. You can’t fight it or avoid it or even get relief unless you’re sleeping (and even that’s not a given), and it feels like forever before you’re out of the clutches and able to feel the highs and lows of everyday life again.

“Shores of Mourning,” the debut record from Seattle’s Isenordal, is an examination and journey through a time of loss when avoiding the suffocating shadows and begging for life to have rays of brightness again consume all hours. The grief that hangs over one’s head makes it feel like being trapped in a mental cell, a sort of personal prison, and the only way to make it out is to survive and adapt. This six-track, 48-minute record is a stunning display combining black metal, doom, Neofolk-style orchestral arrangements, and plenty more into a package that drips with blood and rages with emotion, carrying you through the entire trip from cataclysmic pain into the dawn of mental salvation. The band—guitarist/vocalist Kerry Hall, violist/vocalist Marisa Janke, guitarist Sam Smallidge, bassist Jeff King, pianist/organist Lieu Wolfe, drummer Brian Spenser—sounds like a storm ripping through, pushing and pulling, leaving you devastated in its wake.

The title track starts the record, an 11:15-long piece that’s the longest song on the record. Waves lap as piano drops and strings thicken. As the song opens, abrasive shrieks and guttural growls combine, with Janke’s singing pushing more texture into the mix. The music is moody and effective, with goth-rich funeral bells chiming, engorged death bringing carnage, and the pace really picking up. Speed kills as the band races toward the exit, with cool acoustic flourishes picking up later and bringing the song to its end. “Of Winged Fire and Crawling Shadow” is rustic at first before the earth cracks and lava flows. Vicious riffs and mangling vocals arrive before calm rises, and clean calling adds a sense of beauty. Later, the tempo erupts again, with the band finding a thrashing groove, with gruff lurching and riveting strings bringing the song to a conclusion. “Pyres at Nightfall” arrives in a mist of clean guitars and strings before a slow-driving pace drops hammers. Nasty vocals tear at the skin, as the music mauls, the vocals are delivered wildly, and sweeping strings deliver freezing winds that punish your muscles.

“To Tear the Veil of Dreams” has a cold, trickling start, moving at a deliberate pace and feeling like a funeral dirge. Strings flood as the band begins trudging, with gravelly growling and slashing guitars making their way through the madness. The track swirls and pounds, landing final blows that are bloodthirsty. “A Gallows’ Prayer” starts with piano, shadowy guitars, and a goth feel returning. As the track progresses, it comes to life, stampeding hard and letting the guitars chew up the scene. Thrashy playing and razor-sharp leads draw blood, while surging melodies wrap up with chaotic power, as guitars and strings chisel away at the finish. Closer “Cleansing Rites” has guitars streaking and choral beauty swirling, with shrieks delivered over the fairly minimalist setting that dresses to first few minutes. From there, fogs emerge and shield the visions, as the song gets heavier and heavier, with the world being torn apart, growls echoing, and everything washing away in a flood of raw acoustics.

Isenordal have a pretty strong debut record on their hands with “Shores of Mourning,” and it’s going to be interesting to hear where this band goes in the next few years as they develop as a live band and as songwriters. These six songs are compelling and intriguing, bringing you through the ebbs and flows of this journey through darkness. This is a powerful first statement that could be the first building block for a really special band.

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