With the third installment in the Shadows Fall empire, the band not only took their level of musical talent to the next level, but also the extremity of the music they play. After Of One Blood, they moved from a more generic melodic metal style to more of a thrash metal type approach. This is faster, heavier, yet still equally as emotional in parts as anything else theyíve done in the past. Complex heavy riffing with insane guitar solos make up SFís guitar arsenal. The bass and drum attack provide somewhat of a rhythm attack while Brian Fairís unique vocal style makes them stand out in a crowd.
If youíve been a fan of the band from the beginning (or at least Of One Blood
) then youíll definitely note some style progression here. They do it with every album. While OOB was a very melodic and lead guitar-oriented record, AOB is more straightforward metal. Its very heavy, fast, and riff-based music. Of course, they wouldnít dare leave out the immaculate guitar playing that Matt and Jon love so much. Jonís fantastic shred-happy guitar solos are laced throughout the entire album, while Mattís riffs are just unrelenting. Paulís bassage doesnít exactly stand out against the rest of the music, but he keeps in stride with Matt and Jon. Thatís no easy feat. Itís a shame Paul doesnít get more credit. Jason Bittner of course couldnít be forgotten. Heís won numerous awards since joining the Shads. His drumming often consists of traditional thrash beats, but his speed and technique are nothing to sneer at. Iíll do the stereotypical metal drummer thing and say he can double bass quite fast.
The album opener, Idle Hands
, is a good symbol of what this album has in store. A fast, hard-hitting, unrelenting thrashy metal record. It opens the album with a nice kick in the face. The second track, Thoughts Without Words
, is nothing but a flat out thrash metal song. The chorus is one of the most headbangable parts Iíve ever heard, and is quite fun to play on guitar. Stepping Outside the Circle
is pretty much the same way as well. Fast and thrash the whole way through, except for the solo, which is long, epic, and emotional.
But donít misinterpret. This is not strictly a thrash album with a very linear progression for fifty minutes. This album has a diverse array of sounds. It has a little taste of all ends of the musical spectrum while still sticking to the Shadows Fall style. For example, Mystery of One Spirit is essentially power metal
! It has the slightly cheesy-sounding lead-driven guitar riffs and the positive lyrics. All theyíre missing are some Lord of the Rings references and a picture of a dragon somewhere. The third track, Destroyer of Senses
, is a fast, flowing moshfest. The first time I saw SF some guy broke his leg in the pit during this song. For three minutes it moves on with Matt and Jon doing a fast chord progression. It slows down during the chorus, but picks up. It doesnít have the usual guitar riffing style that most of their other stuff does, and is also quite short. If youíre still not impressed, then maybe youíll be interested in the cover of Pink Floydís Welcome to the Machine
. It stays true to the original sound while simultaneously making it a heavier, modern sound. Its quite good, and Iím not even a Pink Floyd fan.
The Idiot Box
is one of the most unique songs Iíve ever heard. It has unusual guitar riffs and a very strange solo. The pre-solo, by the way, sounds da
mn good. I donít think Iíve ever banged my head so hard. When I first heard this song I didnít know what to think; Iím glad I made the right choice.
Alright. So you know this record is fast and heavy. You know it has many different sounds. You know it has musicianship. What is it missing? Emotion! Honestly Ė if youíve heard this album and you think it lacks emotion, than youíre a complete fool. The title track, The Art of Balance
, is 4-5 minutes of pure emotion. The clean guitar sections sounds incredible. Even more so after being led into by the low, electric intro solo. The guitar solo in Mystery of One Spirit
is very metal and uplifting. I donít know why, but it just has a positive sound to it. God I love that stuff. The 7:30 epic track A Fire in Babylon
is heavy and as meaningful as metal can be. Even with Matt doing death metal vocals it sounds emotional. The clean guitar break before the solo is incredible. I couldnít think of a better way to close an album (besides adding a cover).
I hope Iíve persuaded you into checking this out if you havenít. Of course, Iím no Nazi. If you donít like these guys, thatís fine too. Iím sure thereís some reason out there somewhere not to. But to me, Shadows Fall has a little of everything that makes metal good. The definition of a five-star rating fits this record perfectly for me.
: All of them