Shai Hulud - Misanthropy Pure (Cover Artwork)

Shai Hulud

Misanthropy Pure (2008)

Metal Blade

It's pretty sad when one has to resort to the old guard of hardcore bands to find something new and refreshing. In Shai Hulud's defense, however, these guys were innovators well before the band members of most of these newer bands had even felt a girl up, let alone had the fashion sense to decide that wearing girls' clothing could potentially increase album sales tenfold. While the amount of lineup changes Shai Hulud has endured throughout their existence as a band has been downright laughable, Matt Fox and his merry band of hired guns have always delivered for their fans, and it should go without saying that their new album Misanthropy Pure has more than continued in that tradition. There is an episode of "The Simpsons" where Mrs. Krabapple tells Martin Prince that he has "once again wrecked the grading curve" and with that notion in mind there is no doubt that Misanthropy Pure has wrecked whatever the existing hardcore music equivalent to that curve is.

All of the old-heads who probably assumed this band peaked with That Within Blood Ill-Tempered are going to be in for quite a surprise, because Misanthropy Pure is by far Shai Hulud's most evolved album to date. It could be the fact that I'm a product of the current musical era we are now engaged in, but I really believe that the production job on this record helped Shai Hulud reach this new peak in excellence. Misanthropy Pure is the first Shai Hulud album that doesn't sound like it was recorded in a meth lab by Steve Albini. Normally I am skeptical about hardcore bands producing their own material, but the Matt Fox, Eric Rachel (A Life Once Lost, Every Time I Die) one-two punch that polished this album in the studio finally manages to bring out the heaviness that was largely absent on previous Shai Hulud recordings.

I'm not a schmuck, and I do realize that without good songwriting, this album could have blown out the speakers in my car without amounting to a hill of beans. Shai Hulud have never followed a specific blueprint for their songwriting, and like much of their older material, Misanthropy Pure is all over the place as well. There are virtually no songs that follow a typical verse/chorus/verse song structure, which could throw some listeners off, but what makes this album so great is how every intricate melody, crushing guitar riff and tempo change seamlessly fit together. "We Who Finish Last" goes from utilizing the "forbidden" punk rock beat to a pummeling double-bass drum part, to a breakdown that could make Throwdown hang up their spurs and retire -- all in the span of about a minute, without even breaking a sweat. Nothing on Misanthropy Pure seems thrown together or out of place. Even when the band "experiments" with "conventional" Shai Hulud song structures like in the title track "Misanthropy Pure," which features probably the closest thing to a chorus on the record, the ensuing chaos doesn't sound tired, or trite.

Misanthropy Pure is probably the closest thing we will see to a hardcore orchestra. Every moment of this disc sounds absolutely huge, like fifty separate people are playing each individual part of the song. Misanthropy Pure also includes a refurbished recording of their seminal tune "Set Your Body Ablaze," which needless to say sounds meaner than ever. When highfalutin zine writers churn out those "top ten greatest heavy band lists" rarely do I ever see Shai Hulud's name mentioned among the greats. These guys have truly been pioneers, making innovative heavy music for close to a decade, and once Misanthropy Pure makes its rounds, I have a feeling that they'll finally get the recognition they deserve.