Shadows Fall - Somber Eyes To The Sky (Lifeless Records) 1998
1. "Revel In My Loss"
Wow, I wasn't expecting this. Having become familiar with Shadows Fall from their "Or One Blood" and "Art Of Balance" CDs, I wasn't expecting "Somber Eyes To the Sky" to be anything different. This is melodic death/thrash like old In Flames. The riffs are heavy and the vocals are harsh and have an early death metal feel. Vocalist Phil Labonte is very different from Brian Fair, who would become the band's vocalist on their follow-up. While Phil's voice isn't exactly unique, I far prefer this style to the metalcore screaming that would soon be the band's signature. Musically the intensity level here just never lets up, save for the short instrumental "Lead Me Home" which features violins, acoustic guitars and a melodic, electric guitar lead. This one might actually get some spin time.
Shadows Fall - Of One Blood (Century Media) 2000
1. "Plain Glass Vision"
One of the few bands that capably mixes beauty and brutallity all at the same time coming up with something familiar, yet unique. That's about the best way to describe Shadows Fall. Their music and lyrics just intregue me. I must admit, however, that while I really love this CD, I think that if Shadows Fall added a Rob Halford-like screamer I would like them all that much more. Vocalist Brian Fair has a great death metal growl, but his clean vocals are more of a doom shout, or a hardcore yell. I just really think that a more melodic vocal style would compliment the music better. However, this is really a minor issue, as "Of One Blood" is an awesome disc.
Shadows Fall - The Art of Balance (Century Media) 2002
1. "Idle Hands"
Man, what a KILLER CD! A friend emailed me that I should check these guys out, stating that they were the "the new Metallica." Hmmm, not sure what that means, but Shadows Fall have succeeded in creating a progressive metal CD like few others in recent years. The success lies in the mixture of many different styles of heavy metal along with stellar musicianship. Each and every song stands out on it's own, yet each song contains elements of classic metal, thrash, death metal and even some hardcore. If it is possible this album is both beautiful and brutal at the same time. Jonathan Donais' guitar playing is a mixture of pounding, metallic riffs, precision playing and some melodic, melancholy moments as well. The majority of the disc is pretty heavy, but interspersed are these quiter moments that really add dynamics to the disc. Check out the two instrumentals, "Casting Shade," "Prelude to Disaster", for an example of what I mean. My only real complaint about this disc is the vocals, which tend to switch back and forth from growls to hardcore shouts with a few clean, more melodic moments. On the band's cover of Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine" vocalist Brian Fair proves that he can sing as well as growl. It's a shame he doesn't use that talent a bit more on this disc. Overall, however, this is an excellent album. Let's hope that more band's follow in this band's path of excellent musicianship and songwriting, annihilating the horrid crap that is now called 'nu-metal'.
Shadows Fall - Threads of Life (Atlantic) 2007
In 2000 I picked up "Of One Blood" by Shadows Fall and was quite blown away by their mix of melodic death and hardcore. I was equally enamored with their follow-up "The Art of Balance". However, soon after I became bored with the whole fad known as metalcore which Shadows Fall fit neatly into. I sort of forgot about this band and rarely revisited those two albums. In 2007 the metalcore trend as a whole has began to die down and suddenly classic thrash has become more popular in the underground. New, young bands like Merciless Death, Evile, and Fueled by Fire were suddenly becoming the hot topics on the metal discussion boards. Older thrash bands like Sodom, Exodus, Kreator, etc. were releasing new CDs to great success. As such, bands like Trivium and Shadows Fall have migrated from their former sound into a thrash direction. I think "Threads of Life" could possibly be a transition album for the band with even better things to come in the future. This album walks a fine line between metalcore and neo-thrash metal (think The Haunted). As such, "Threads of Life" is sure to tick off some long time fans while possibly drawing in new fans. Most of the the boring, E-chord, breakdown chugs of metalcore have been replaced with lead breaks filled with competent guitar solos! Yes, my friends, guitar solos are metal! Indeed! This instantly makes the album more likable for this longtime metal fan. The album starts off with one of the albums best tracks, "Redemption". This song is heavy modern thrash with only the slightest hint of the band's past. As well, “Failure of the Devout” has a killer thrash riff in the song. Each song is similar in style, with the entire album coming off as aggressive and a sound I might describe as thrash-core. The vocals are a juggernaut mix of aggressive hardcore shouts and melodic, high clean vocals. My only real problem with the album is the lack of memorable choruses or even distinction from song to song. I listened to this album four times within three days before writing this and I still cannot remember a single song. None of the tracks on "Threads of Life" stand out as particularly exceptional. So, while the band is headed in a good direction, I am hoping this album is only a transitional album with the next album going further into a more traditional metal and thrash direction and possibly a more accessible sound.