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Music can be many things to different people. To some, it is a form of entertainment; to others, a type of communication. Some may treat it as art, abstract and yet conveying some of creator’s passion and worldview to intended audience. To others it is a constant companion following side-by-side in all of our trials, triumphs, tribulations, and moments of contemplation.
Whatever one’s personal stylistic preference might be, there is no denying the impact of music on our lives. And yet it is very uncommon that a work comes about that aims for all of these disparate goals and successfully achieves them. Lascaille’s Shroud’s “Leaving Earth Behind” is that uncommon work that merges mood, atmosphere, story, and technical proficiency into spectacular soundscape that greatly magnifies the sum of its parts.
On the very basic level, this one-man project plays progressive death metal, however, this description is far too simplistic to describe the music, and does not do the material justice. Where many of that genre’s luminaries create masterpieces of technical precision and dexterous playing, Lascaille’s Shroud eschews much of over-the-top complexity, unusual time signatures, and shred playing in favor of creating a spacey, atmospheric feeling that permeates every moment of this forty-plus minute release. Instead, “Leaving Earth Behind” sounds like a transcendent science fiction offspring of Opeth’s penchant for writing lengthy songs, Dimmu Borgir’s sense of keyboard orchestration, and Bal-Sagoth’s addiction to writing epic concepts to go with the music.
There are moments where instrumentation steps up to remind the listener that Brett Windnagle, the man behind the project, is indeed a highly proficient player – but those moments never feel forced, and actually enhance the music instead of serving to show off the playing skill. More often than not, Lascaille’s Shroud relies on ambient passages that never feel forced, but instead create lush yet melancholic soundscapes through judicious use of very prominent keyboards. The vocals are primarily death and black metal growls and shrieks, however, they rarely take the spotlight, serving to enhance the music instead of being the focal point.
“Leaving Earth Behind” is built around a trio of conceptual tracks centered around a suitably epic science fiction storyline. While many conceptual efforts fall short due to forcing the music to conform to a story, in this case the results are truly synergic in nature. The music and the story feed off each other, presenting the listener with a cohesive whole that must be experienced rather than merely listened to. At times the album sounds like a soundtrack to a movie of monumental proportions, however, it never cheapens the impact. While this high-brow concept may turn off casual listeners, or may even invite accusations of pretentiousness, the truth of the matter is that Lascaille’s Shroud succeeds in accomplishing a lofty, ambitious objective, and creates a highly remarkable composition that serves as a teaser for the upcoming full-length album, which will reprise the story and fill it with additional songs.
This is the music for long drives through the mountains in the dark, with distant lights and partially obscured constellations as one’s only companions. This is the record for those of us who enjoy being challenged with provocative works of fiction, for those who would lose themselves in existentialist contemplation brought forth by art and literature. This is the celebration of music as art in its purest, most honest form, and the beginning of a journey that takes the listener into places where only imagination and creativity rule unbound. This is Lascaille’s Shroud.