In the second chapter of Shai Hulud’s musical journey, we learn that things tend to happen when you don’t release an album for almost six years. The release of That Within Blood Ill-Tempered would see Chad Gilbert leave the band, with Geert van der Velde taking the helm vocally – though it would be short-lived. Yet, whether it be his inclusion in the band or just a textural shift in the band’s styling, this record showed Shai Hulud continuing their weaving, non-linear writing style, but this time with an increased amount of upbeat riffs to counter the poignant lyricism and hardcore underbelly of these cuts. I would dare say the inclusion of some catchier elements makes this the band’s most accessible album even at almost ten years later. Yet, even with the six-year gap between discs, That Within Blood Ill-Tempered still carries the Shai Hulud flag with a pop in its step and a chip on its shoulder for what proves to be a unique, but vivid projection of the band’s intentions.
Opening with something that should start a pile-up at any show they play it at, “Scornful of Motives and Virtue of Others” is among the most recognizable cuts Shai has come to create. The juxtaposition of uplifting melodies and expected misanthropy is declared with a burst of guitars and pushing drums, setting the tone for an album that balances heavy and bright quite well in the realm of off-kilter hardcore. “Willing Oneself to Forget What Cannot Otherwise Be Forgiven” shows flashes of that upbeat nature as well, even as the song shifts from pulsing to brooding in its tone and tempo, just as “Given Flight By Demon’s Wings” bolsters itself with an almost poppy sense of melody while still punching like a hardcore track.
But to offset that, there isn’t a lack of abrasion on this record in any way. “Two and Twenty Misfortunes” shows some interesting guitar flashes within a stomping, plodding hardcore tune that forms itself around a rather off-center skeleton of rhythmic churning – though it certainly isn’t the most memorable track considering the energy heard on others, it still commands a course of crunching guitars with ease. “Whether to Cry or Destroy” is more of a bridge to Hearts Once Nourished With Hope and Compassion though, amping up the aggression and weaving guitar melodies with a sense of spite and boiling emotion in the belted vocals of van der Velde.
The full impact of such an album is found not just in the band’s words and writings, but how they deliver them. While Hearts saw the band’s songwriting twisting and turning – and at times feeling a little wandering in the process – the curves and structures of these tracks benefit from slightly leaner and certainly more adventurous use of the riffs and melodies regardless of the emotion they convey. Sure, there is something to be noted about the fact that this is a hardcore band weaving a message of misanthropy into what otherwise might sound like an inspirational call to arms at times, but even when Shai Hulud tones that side of their writing down, the meeting of such words and a more abrasive texture still rings just as loud in the big picture of this album’s message.
That Within Blood Ill-Tempered had quite some time to be the sophomore album for this band. While most bands don’t take that much time between albums, Shai Hulud’s leaning on a bit more vibrant hardcore sound here is a mixed bag in how it approaches itself in terms of delivery. But don’t get it twisted, as their second album begs to be the setting for a hardcore meeting of the voices and bodies – whether you enjoyed their first outing or not.