With their debut album Hearts Once Nourished With Hope and Compassion, Shai Hulud essentially invented a subgenre of metallic hardcore. The band’s roots can be traced back to the fertile and insular south Florida hardcore scene of the mid-’90s, where members fearlessly cherry-picked influences from hardcore, punk, thrash and power metal’s cream of the crop. They went on to irreverently whisk them together in a cauldron of dueling, layered and counterpointing guitars, sidewinding time signature shifts and infectious hyper-melodic sequences topped off with the wise-beyond-his-years-bellow of their 16-year-old frontman.
This mix was in direct contrast to the sounds emanating from bands like Earth Crisis, Snapcase, Integrity and others on the thunderous clomping side of metal-inspired hardcore. But that’s not to say Shai Hulud didn’t have an edge. Their sound may have caressed ears with a velvety melodic touch, but lyrically, it was all broad misanthropic strokes unafraid to call out friend, foe or self in popular finger-pointers and pile-on staples like “Solely Concentrating on the Negative Aspects of Life,” “My Heart Bleeds the Darkest Blood,” “A Profound Hatred of Man” and “Outside the Boundaries of a Friend.”
To hear the band talk about it 23 years later, however, Hearts Once Nourished appears to have germinated from equal amounts of creative intent and forward thought. This, despite being recorded at the legendary Morrisound Studios with Assück vocalist/guitarist Steve Heritage behind the board. Regardless of the less than linear conditions in which the album was birthed—and despite what guitarist/self-deprecation champion Matt Fox exhorts—what Fox, fellow guitarist Oliver Chapoy, bassist Dave Silber, drummer Steve Kleisath and vocalist Chad Gilbert created captured imaginations and blew the barriers off hardcore and metal.
The album’s nine songs ushered in an ambitious approach and a new era of metalcore that—for better or worse—went on to influence everyone from As I Lay Dying, Unearth and Killswitch Engage to the Hope Conspiracy, Norma Jean, Every Time I Die and at least 50 percent of the bands ever to step onstage at the Hellfests that used to be held in Syracuse, much less the New England Metal and Hardcore Fests that used to be worth attending. Hearts Once Nourished may have spawned a lot of music that many Decibel readers choose not to care for, but its influence and importance is both definitive and undeniable. And for that, we hold the door of our hallowed Hall open—like Glen Benton would—and welcome its bitter blackness.
Need more Shai Hulud? To read the entire seven-page story, featuring interviews with all members on Hearts Once Nourished With Hope and Compassion, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.