Shadows Fall
The Art of Balance


4.0
excellent

Review

by Kenneth E. Rathburn USER (71 Reviews)
July 5th, 2011 | 20 replies


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The band's defining release.

Massachusetts act Shadows Fall have had their share of success (and criticism), namely after the release of their true breakthrough album, The War Within. Despite said album's popularity, it's far from the more masterful command and execution of its predecessors. Both Somber Eyes to the Sky and Of One Blood were rough productions, showing the band in a more or less thrash-hardcore light. While they were both vigorously enjoyable albums, their sound would gradually become more refined with later works. And it's on their 2002 outing, The Art of Balance, that we see such traits push their music forth more than anything else they've done.

Kicking off with crunchy riffs and a harsh vocal combination on "Idle Hands," The Art of Balance is quick to let the listener know just what to expect. Similar to how Lamb of God let their Pantera-esque groove metal influences compliment their metalcore roots, Shadows Fall give us a deeper, more modern thrash metal infusing for their own. Sometimes the music is handled on the slower (though still well-paced) side, such as during "The Idiot Box" and most of "A Fire in Babylon." We even get some melodic guitar-playing on the title track, which sees some heavier riffs included just enough for an interesting, edgy combination. Then we get tracks like "Thoughts Without Words" and "Stepping Outside the Circle," which up the intensity considerably and remind us why people love to see them live.

If it isn't clear by now, where the album truly shines is with the dual-guitar combination of Jonathan Donais and Matt Bachand. Their riff/medley mixes are effective, memorable and are a key reason the songs work and sound so well. Yet it's during the solos that they truly leave us in awe (see "Thoughts Without Words"); adding wonderful climaxes to the mix. The rest of the band don't slouch around, either. Though often criticized, Brian Fair proves his vocal chops more here than on any other album they've done. His lows (matched nicely by Donais and Bachand's backing vocals) help further compliment the crunch-ridden thrash/metalcore sound The Art of Balance provides. More familiar screams and yells are also provided which, though not in the least bit remarkable, are exactly what the music demands: a fitting voice. Paul Romanko and Jason Bittner also do well maintaining the rhythm in their parts as bassist and drummer, respectively.

In addition to a stellar listing of eight tracks, and two nicely placed, atmospheric instrumental interludes ("Casting Shade" and "Prelude to Disaster"), we're also treated to a surprisingly great cover of Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine." While the band's subsequent song covers have proven all but warranted, this is one that actually does justice to the original. Though we get a taste of the band's regular sound throughout, the original song's mellow and somber spirit have been retained. The resulting combination is very effective, allowing the song to remain haunting and chill-ridden

Shadows Fall are far from a quintessential band of any genre, especially since they branch away from basic metalcore more than several other groups in the New Wave of American Metal. Despite this, they've certainly provided us with some solid releases in their career. And if any of them stands out enough to show their potential the most, it would definitely be The Art of Balance. There's not much to really hold against the album other than lacking more entirely compelling tracks; but excellence and high recommendation don't require perfection.



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user ratings (535)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
Kit Brown (4)
Featuring some of modern American metal's best guitar work, this is something that should be in ever...

Ian (5)
...

Shadows (5)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Xenorazr
July 6th 2011


460 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Found this album for $5 (got it for $1). Used to listen to it all the time but hadn't heard it in a while, so this is nostalgic for me.

dimsim3478
July 6th 2011


5312 Comments


A BUCK???????????????????

Great review. I like to think of it as thrash-metalcore.

Digging: Crying - Get Olde Second Wind

IrishJay91
July 6th 2011


688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

very good review.
i need this album. i have the three that follow, and I overall enjoyed the war within. local band, too, they're always great to see live.

tkxxx7
July 6th 2011


6153 Comments


why say "great review" and not pos ?

kount
July 6th 2011


1279 Comments


pos coz nostalgic thrash-metalcore

Emim
July 6th 2011


26666 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Though the genre of metalcore has become a much-maligned one for many listeners (which isn't completely unjustified), it isn't always substandard.


damnit stop with these introductions. i understand you have nothing to open with, but this is not the answer.

dimsim3478
July 6th 2011


5312 Comments


Wisdom.

none
July 6th 2011


1100 Comments


do u have wisdom?

Butkuiss
July 6th 2011


4249 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Personally, I think if Shadows Fall had a different vocalist, or if Brian exclusively sang, most people wouldn't even bring the metalcore tag into their description past their first album. They've always seemed more like a thrash-revival/modern thrash band with hardcore influences to me.

I can still remember when these guys were being hyped as the next sure big thing in metal. Ahh, nostalgia. I wonder what happened to them.

Digging: Musk Ox - Woodfall

IrishJay91
July 6th 2011


688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

^Threads of Life...

dimsim3478
July 6th 2011


5312 Comments


Honestly, I kind of agree with Butkuiss on this album, but stuff like "What Drives the Weak" from The War Within is unquestionably metalcore.

KILL
July 6th 2011


72086 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

rip shadows

Digging: Steve Hackett - Out of the Tunnel's Mouth

Xenorazr
July 6th 2011


460 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I agree Butkuiss and dimslim. Sometimes I struggle to call them metalcore, though that's more frequent with what's found here and on their first two albums.

Xenorazr
July 6th 2011


460 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Intro changed. Happy, Emim? But I know and accept, I use the genre generalizations too often in my (metal) reviews.

Curse.
Contributing Reviewer
July 6th 2011


8019 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

KILLER OF LIFE, DESTROYER OF SENSES

WatchItExplode
July 6th 2011


3292 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This band could have been way better with a differerent vocalist.

Inveigh
July 6th 2011


25097 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I thought the vocals worked really well on this album (and really only this album) because he had that thrash snarl going on.

I loved the shit of this record back in the day.

Digging: Hail Mary Mallon - Bestiary

WatchItExplode
July 6th 2011


3292 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

same Inveigh, though I feel the vocals were still the weakest link in the band's sound. Ahhhhh, nostalgia.

Emim
July 6th 2011


26666 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This band could have been way better with a differerent vocalist.


This this this.


Intro changed. Happy, Emim?


Yes, much better.

Butkuiss
July 6th 2011


4249 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

To be fair, I honestly don't mind Brian. He just sounds so...airy.

Pun intended.



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