Shroud Eater’s massive sludge gets more volcanic, drubbing with punishing ‘Strike the Sun’

I feel like if I include the words “doom sludge” in an opening paragraph on this site, people might go running the other way for fear of being a victim to that sound’s epic flooding. I get that. I often feel that way when I see those words in album promos in my inbox—ugh, another one?—but that also could lead one to miss a really great band and record.

Luckily when it comes to Miami’s Shroud Eater, I have previous experience with the band and, therefore, won’t ignore them when a new record comes my way. That’s going on now with the delivery of “Strike the Sun,” the band’s thunderous second record that hits all the right spots one seeks to have satisfied when it comes to this type of thing. Trudging, melodies, spacious, and guttural all are descriptors that could apply, and while their sound may be one that’s been heavily traveled, this band is expanding the borders and injecting excitement and passion back into the music. This new record is eight tracks of Shroud Eater’s most focused, damaging work to date, and each visit with the thing is massive and hammering. The band—guitarist/vocalist Jean Saiz, bassist/vocalist Janette Valentine, and drummer Davin Sosa—sound channeled and about to break out, proving their teeth are sharp, and their meddle cannot be questioned.

“Smokeless Fire” is a largely instrumental opener that slowly spreads fire, with humming tones, trancey weirdness, and voices floating above the din, heading into “Iron Mountain” that wastes no time launching into a static-filled stomp. Saiz’s vocals stretch like a dream but also punch hard, especially when wailing, “Storm the iron gates, for they lead to the mountain!” Strong leads take over, as the band launches molten crushing, then everything fades into the cosmos. “Awaken Assassin” has a blues-flavored opening, with powerful singing bursting through the doors, and a simple chorus that is memorable and impactful. The guitars bleed and sizzle, with the song coming to a muddy, blistering end.  “Another Skin” has a burly start, flexing its muscles and blackening eyes. Powerful riffs do the storytelling during this instrumental piece, as the track catches fire and begins bashing in heads. Thick bass sends ripples, guitars continue to agitate the fires, and the song bleeds into the night sky.

“Dream Flesh” has an eerie, chilling start, as the song slowly trickles open and carves its path. Soft singing swirls, playing games with your mind, and then things head toward “It Walks Among” and its humidity that hangs in the air. The track lurches along heavily, with bluesier vocals adding swagger and then things heading into a reflective pool. From out of the that, the tempo kicks in again, doing heavy pummeling, and there’s not an ounce of mercy from there, as the cut comes to a smoldering end. “Unseen Hand” batters at the start, as the song slices viciously, with guitars cutting through bones. The vocals are meaner and more aggressive, with deliberately delivered howls insisting, “To fail is to die!” Closer “Futile Exile” is the longest track at 7:20, and it starts with a slow-driving, scuzzy assault that tracks mud. The song heads into psyche-washed, trippy territory when it’s not bludgeoning, and the shouted threat of, “You can’t hide! It’s futile!” precedes the promise of, “I will always find you!” leading the song to its watery finish that washes away some of the blood but certainly not all of it.

Shroud Eater should start turning more heads with “Strike the Sun,” as it’s the record that really should put them on the map. Yeah, we’ve done a lot of sludge, but don’t let that sway you from indulging in this band’s brand of sooty goodness, because it’s pummeling and really satisfying. Shroud Eater have been doing volcanic things for quite some time now, and it’s definitely time for more people to get on with what they’re serving.

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