Since first covering music back in the early 2000′s, I quickly acknowledged the popularity and longevity of the American Metal genre. Veteran artists like Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God, and Shadows Fall had captivated audiences, while not really changing (or needing to change) their musical formula all that much over the years. After seven acclaimed full-lengths, Grammy-nominated (crazy I know), Springfield, MA five-piece Shadows Fall has settled down with a favorite of ours, producer/writer/guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz (Killswitch Engage, Times Of Grace, The Devil Wears Prada) to record their latest album “Fire From The Sky.” News of their current record hearkened me back to their 1997 debut effort “Somber Eyes To The Sky,” not just because it featured the same producer and sequential title, but rather just how far the band had come and progressed without alienating fans from constant evolution or becoming bland due to repetitive, samey albums.
Shadows Fall, if anything, has simply honed and tightened their skills over the years — cleaning up the proficiency of Brian Fair‘s pronounced, dreadlocked, shouts as well as improving their technical fretwork to include both punishing low breakdowns and melodic aerial riffage. As you would expect from what I have said earlier, “Fire From The Sky” doesn’t fall far from the tree that spawned it, keeping a rank-and-file style and sound with previous outings — the only difference being a heavier lean towards a balanced combination of a fuller, chord driven sound and free range melodic solos. A full dose of which we are given with the record opener “The Unknown” that flutters its way through complex, layered, guitar riffs– only to do an almost Metallica impression (Sorry guys, Trivium has cornered that market) with Brian belting out a Hetfield rendition and including a short, piano-led, bridge ballad. As the record continues though, comparisons to their influences almost fully disappear and Shadows Fall taps their own hearty well for music, which has them lead with their best foot forward, unleashing a bevy of technical solos and thrashy riffs, ie. the “Weight Of The World.”
Repetitive songs like “Nothing Remains” feel like they received the short end of the stick, left with monotonous verse fretwork, as well as uncommon harmonized singing from Brian, Matt, and Jonathan — while on the other end, the building twists and turns of the God Forbid-esque trash/speed metal on their title track “Fire From The Sky,” feel like an ode to bands of the past, less about getting on the radio and more about fitting as much complicated riffage as you could on one track. Something you also notice on the 80′s inspired guitar work of “Save Your Soul.” You can tell because, it almost sounds like Paul’s basslines are lowered in the mix completely, making way for harmonized vocals, and blazing string manipulation. The efforts last three tracks finish off strong with pummeling drums, complete with plenty of double bass petal, and racing guitars, furnished with squealing solos and rare chugging.
As anticipated, Shadows Fall haven’t done much in the way of altering previous ways with “Fire From The Sky,” but honestly they don’t really need to. They have always kept in the shadows of other, more popular, bands such as Killswitch Engage, Unearth, and Chimaira — feeling content on playing trash metalcore for their devoted fan base of metal and dreadlock lovers. They helped define a genre and made a formula with longevity, and boy are they milking it for all it’s worth. Besides the abundance of technically brilliant fretwork, the enveloping harmonized vocals, and the short pleasant acoustic detour on “Blind Faith,” there is very little to mention in the way of maturation — Brian still “growl-talks” and shouts with ferocity, String-smiths Matt and Jon still weave together compelling guitar compositions, and Jason (drummer) never missed a beat, or blast beat as it were.
Fans of Shadows Fall will be lining up early for their first taste of the band in three years, while listeners of the bands I listed above will soon give this group the time of day (as should of been the case since “The Art Of Balance”). It seems that “Fire From The Sky” is yet another reminder that melodic guitars can literally lift any album from bland to grand, but that has been the way Shadows Fall have been doing it since they formed, you just had your somber eyes elsewhere — on the sky maybe? [Staff]
Score: 4 (out of 5)
Release Date: May 15th, 2012
Record Label: Razor & Tie Records
Genre: Thrash / Metalcore
RIYL: Killswitch Engage, Unearth, Lamb Of God
1. The Unknown
2. Divide And Conquer
3. Weight Of The World
4. Nothing Remains
5. Fire From The Sky
6. Save Your Soul
7. Blind Faith
8. Lost Within
9. Walk The Edge
10. The Wasteland
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