Review: Shallow Black ‘THE SECOND MANUSCRIPt’

Well, well, well, here we are, once again, stepping into the world of Shallow Black, for THE SECOND MANUSCRIPt.

Somewhat a mythical beast, there’s a lot of speculation around just who this masked and cloaked humanoid is, but one thing is for sure, they come bearing gifts. The most obnoxious, horrid, and ungodly of all gifts. They come with a statement, a statement to the unsuspecting, that something wicked this way comes.


THE SECOND MANUSCRIPt is that gift, and boy what a gift it is indeed. It sounds as crusty and grimy as it looks, and it’s for good reason, for this has spewed forth from the very swamps of hell. Like a nightmare vision, a return to dooms lurching pathos that chills to the bone, feeling like a thirties monster feature, and smells like Satan’s undergarments, that’s for sure.

That isn’t to say it’s by any means an absolute stinker, far from it to be fair, but if you are looking for something truly fucked up, with a drudgy lurching feel, then this, my friends, is the work for you.

THE SECOND MANUSCRIPt is an eight-track, scream fest, ready to take your soul and plant it firmly in the dirt. Complete with a cover of a modern classic, with a demonic twist, what emerges is a hard, and at times painfully wonderful listen, which will leave you wondering just how to go on afterwards.

As with previous Shallow Black releases, there is a very DIY nature to the whole recording. It sounds like it’s been recorded in an underground torture room, while victims scream their final thoughts. To classify it as crusty garage doom I feel is to hit at its core. it’s a mix of soundbites, guttural growls, and wailing guitar, over a background of ambient electronics and pounding drum, guaranteed to keep you guessing, right into the dying moments as to its true nature.

Interlaced with the full tracks, there are a couple of musical interludes, a chance for some respite, but they don’t last long, and after the initial introduction, which is a mix of guttural growls, industrial sounds, and pensive instrumentation, we are set for the main event to start.

Track two, CHAPtER ONE (CONSUME-AtE) kicks firmly in to focus that crusty DIY dynamic. The debate as to whether this is a deliberate move, recording limitations, or something else, maybe otherworldly and demonic, becomes a reality and is a factor throughout the whole opus. I feel that it gives it an added air of mystery, but I’m sure that’s all down to the discretion of the artist ultimately.

Anyways, back to the track…

Dark music for dark souls, enter at your peril, it’s gonna be a stormy ride…

A chuggy punchy opening spawns life into the track, and after the first minute, things drop back, to allow one of those trademark Shallow Black soundbites into the forefront. Swiftly returning to the drudgy chug, this time there’s a demonic growl in the mix. Reverbed guitars over dark menacing drums do the trick of piling on the intensity, and as it plays through, this imposing feeling never really drops off. By its final note, it’s clear this is going to be a most uncomfortable ride indeed.

CHAPtER tWO (BURNING At tHE ENDS) only serves to compact this feeling, as it picks up where its predecessor left off, and really refines its terror. This track ups the anti by including a powerplay vocal of spoken word, against spooky growls in the mix. At times pacier than what’s come before, it even dares to break into an experimental alien spaceman sound, before dying off completely.

Both CHAPtER tHREE (DAMN-AGE) and CHAPtER FOUR & FIVE (KING VENOM + HACK) solidify this whole vibe, with that mix of thunderous drum, and chugging guitar, over laced with those visceral growls. That is, except for the vocal on (DAMN-AGE), where a sublime bit of clear vocal rolls in, just to shake things up.

Deserving of a special mention, at this point, is the title of track six, MANIPULAtION OF tHE HUMAN SOUL BY A BLIND ROBOt VOMItING ALGORItHMS, easily the longest, and most tongue-twisting track title I’ve read in a while. It left me wondering if this was, in fact, a disused Carcass track title, from back in the day. It takes almost as long to read it all as the actual track is in length, and after that, I’m ready for the finale.

Now, without naming names, the last track is a cover of a grunge classic, it is a Nirvana tune, and part of a genre synonymous with Shallow Black’s other ensemble after they released an EP of grunge classics last year. The track itself is SOMEtHING IN tHE WAY, which has been covered multiple times, but not so much in a way like this.

The closest comparison I have is the phenomenal Chrome Waves version, and if you like that version, you’re going to love this for sure. Sung a little differently, it’s equally dark and moody that leaves a feeling of hopelessness and depression, unmatched in pretty much all other takes on the track.

Coming away from the album is a weird one because the sense of fulfilment isn’t like you would usually get from an album upon its climax. It’s so dark and intense, it takes a while to come down. It’s not usual for me to be left feeling bleak in my soul, but with this, I am. I guess sometimes life isn’t all bubbles and smiles, and with Shallow Black, it isn’t the case. Dark music for dark souls, enter at your peril, it’s gonna be a stormy ride.

Label: Independent
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Lee Beamish