Review Summary: Thrash-Metalcore gets a boost as Shadows Fall put out their best performance in years.
Shadows Fall exists as one of the pole bearers for the Boston-area Metalcore scene. Starting up in the mid-nineties, with current All that Remains singer Phil Labonte, the band released a series of Melodic Metalcore albums, replacing Phil with new vocalist Brian Fair along the way. Once the genre everyone loves to hate started to gain ground, the band began to make headway with albums such as The Art of Balance and The War Within. On The war within, the band began to adopt some obvious thrash metal influences into their riffing and song writing and that leads us to their 2012 release Fire From the Sky.
The thrash elements in shadows fall have been very prevalent in Shadows Fall’s music since the war within, but here they really come together. The riffing is fast and furious and the drums punishing, as the 10 tracks travel swiftly through the opener and first single “The Unknown” until the heavy punishing “The wasteland”. Unlike the last few records, the album lacks any real ballads of any sort. While variety is always a good thing to have in a metalcore-ish record, these songs have a real sense of cohesiveness that gives FFTS a great sense of unity.
Like I said before the riffing is fast and furious and this band has one of the better guitar duos in metalcore. While certainly skilled in their own right Jonathan Donais and Matt Bachand’s real skill is hiding their technical skill, in catchy and memorable melodies (See Walk the Edge). Shadows fall has some of the best solos in the business because of this ability to create such memorable licks on those guitars (see Nothing Remains and Divide and Conquer). Drummer Jason Bittner has stepped up his game to match the guitarists as his drumming has been turned up a notch. His metalcore fills are broken up by thrash sourced drumming which gives “core” fans a break from the constant double bass abuse “although it certainly isn’t gone; it’s just not abused like on some other genre staples ‘. Paul Romanko seems to be a serviceable bassist, but like many albums produced by Adam D.; he is pretty hard to hear.
Brian Fair gets the most improved award for his performance on FFTS. He was never my favourite vocalist in this breed of music, his screams were awkward and frankly I thought his singing voice was fairly poor for the genre, but I did appreciate his unique style. However, he has really stepped up on the record has his harsh vocals are more dynamic and powerful and his singing voice is so much better on this record (see Fire from the sky and Save Your Soul). Lyrically the album is mostly apocalyptic in nature and while not terribly notable it is executed well and works well with the sound and cohesiveness of the album.
The only real downsides on this album are rather minor, the bass is pretty inaudible as was stated before and while I said the lack of slower songs really helped the cohesiveness of the record, Shadows Fall write some of the best acoustic interludes in metal so I was a little saddened when I didn’t find one on Fire From the Sky. Besides the minor gripes the album really is a stand out and probably their best album at least since the Art of Balance.
Recommended tracks – Walk the Edge, The Unknown, Fire From the sky, Blind Faith and Save Your Soul.