Liminal Shroud – All Virtues Ablaze

All Virtues Ablaze Album Cover Art

Liminal Shroud – All Virtues Ablaze
Willowtip Records
Release Date: 05/08/22
Running Time: 40:03
Review by Laura Barnes
7/10

Although Black Metal has its roots planted firmly in Northern Europe, recent years have seen some ground-breaking bands coming out of North America. The likes of Wayfarer and Panopticon have revolutionised the Black Metal scene, creating music that is equally as thoughtful as it is extreme. This prospective third wave of Black Metal (and Christ almighty, that is not a debate I want to get into) is one that is philosophical, unashamedly political, and unafraid of experimentation.  It goes beyond the sinister; it is black metal that connects you to the wind in the trees and the dirt beneath your feet. Canadian Black Metal act Liminal Shroud fit neatly into this tradition. 

Liminal Shroud’s version of Black Metal is far more earthy than it is hellish, but is equally as crushing. “All Virtues Ablaze” is an album designed to be listened to loudly and intently. That said, it is certainly an easier listen than their previous album “Through The False Narrows”. The production is far more polished while managing to avoid veering into an overly glossy terrority, but more importantly Liminal Shroud sound fuller and more confident than ever before. The bass and snare combo used throughout this album gives “All Virtues Ablaze” that feeling of vastness and enormity that makes Black Metal special. Album opener ‘Hypoxic’ feels like standing under a waterfall, almost drowning but not quite. Lyrically, the song is a reflection on imprisonment and solitude, and – in my opinion – can be taken both physically and metaphorically. While this may be well-travelled territory for a Black Metal band, it is clear that Liminal Shroud have approached this topic with care and attention. The free and natural world is one that has been destroyed, and replaced with one of tall grey towers and stagnation. As the instrumentals reach their bone-chilling conclusion, an epiphany is declared: ‘We built these towers / and we must tear them down’. 

The rest of the album maintains it’s heavy impact, but also adds in a slightly melodic kick. Although three out of the four tracks exceed the eight minute mark (for me, eight minutes is the border between an ‘easy listening’ song and a ‘lay down with all the lights off’ song), they never once forget that they are songs above all else, weaving the instruments together to create a tapestry of atmosphere, emotion and story. ‘Transmigration I – Pelagic Voids’ features a brief but significant moment of clean singing, and ‘Transmigration II – The Cleansing Ash’ incorporates piano and church choir-esque vocals into a track that is otherwise a twelve minute exploding volcano of sorrow. This is a phenomenal way to round off the album, and those final fading notes will have you wishing that “All Virtues Ablaze” was just that bit longer. 

Although this album is one that I am proud to have in my collection and will no doubt turn back to whenever my skies grow that bit darker, I still feel that Liminal Shroud have more to give. Their sound has become more full and consistent, yes, but I believe that Liminal Shroud can grow their sound even higher, till it reaches snow-capped mountains and is tall enough to look down on those grey, lifeless towers. On a less metaphorical level, there is also a case here for bringing the vocals forward slightly. Whilst there are some Black Metal bands in which the vocals are just one instrument among many, designed to be incomprehensible and mysterious, Liminal Shroud’s lyrics seem too relevant and poignant to be completely buried. These minor gripes aside, “All Virtues Ablaze” gives something that I, personally, will always want more of: big Black Metal with a big black heart. If you’re anything at all like me, then I promise you: this will be worth your while. 

TRACKLISTING:
01. Hypoxic
02. Mists Along Florencia
03. Transmigration I – Pelagic Voids
04. Transmigration II – The Cleansing Ash

LINE-UP:
Aiden Crossley – Vocals, Guitar, Piano
Rich Taylor – Vocals, Bass
Drew Davidson – Drums

LINKS: 

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