Shai Hulud – That Within Blood Ill Tempered

Shai Hulud
That Within Blood Ill Tempered

Shai Hulud gets a fair amount of press in my area, and though they play here quite frequently I’ve always had one reason or another not to go to their shows. I guess I put off checking out Shai Hulud for so long because I always heard them described as a hardcore band, and despite the fairly vibrant scene in my hometown, my personal interest in that genre has waned quite a bit with each new knockoff band to get a little attention. I also figured since their name refers to Frank Herbert’s sci-fi Dune series that their music would be completely cheesy. Indeed, preconceived notions can be a tricky thing and I find they are often spot on or completely off. Still, I looked forward to checking out Shai Hulud’s new album That Within Blood Ill Tempered just for the experience. I really figured they wouldn’t have anything new to offer, but after listening to this album numerous times I find myself a bit torn about how I feel this.
Shai Hulud are indeed a hardcore band, but they are also quite a few other things. The music on this album is just as aggressive as any old-school hardcore, but it is also a lot more melodic with some serious time changes throughout. Their true sound seems to lie somewhere between straight up hardcore, metal, and progressive or math rock. From the beginning it’s clear that Shai Hulud is not another group of muscleheads who can’t really play their instruments or write a decent song. These things are all nice variations from what I was expecting out of this album. The music gets a little too repetitive for my tastes in a few places, but this doesn’t detract much from the overall vibe of the music.
Where I get hung up is Shai Hulud’s lyrics, because I can see that some people will be deeply drawn to this album for the same reason that I’m not completely thrilled with it. While I expected campy sci-fi spins, what I found on That Within Blood Ill Tempered is decidedly over-the-top storytelling. Not exactly pretentious, but somewhat exaggerated. I’m all for intelligent songwriting – which Shai Hulud accomplishes – but from my standpoint they need to tone it down a little bit. The music has an overall positive message though, which will be appealing to many – and for those like me who like more subdued lyrics perhaps skipping the liner notes will make all the difference.
That Within Blood Ill Tempered is one of those albums that will get pulled out to go with certain moods. The band’s twist on hardcore is a good thing for those who find themselves tired of albums that all sound the way each of their predecessors did – especially if more intricate and mature music is your thing. Existing fans of Shai Hulud may find the three-year wait between albums slightly anticlimactic because this release doesn’t immediately astound, but after a few listens it will definitely grow on you.