Review Summary: An Epic Transcendent Merging of Beauty, Technicality, and Aggression. Shadow of Intent Deliver What Could Be The Next Genre Defining Classic.
Melancholy is the third studio effort by death metal band Shadow of Intent. This is their follow up to 2017's Halo themed symphonic deathcore masterpiece Reclaimer, and to say that they have out done themselves would be understatement of the year. What they have crafted with Melancholy is a technical exhibition of the highest calibre possible. It is very apparent they all the guy's in the band care tremendously about the material they produce, and it comes off with every verse sung, every note played, every symbol crashed, and every track written.
First, and foremost. This record is an absolute exhibition in stellar songwriting. Every single track has a fantastic structure, and flow which makes every track feel different, but never different enough to feel like apart of a different record. Ben's vocals need no introduction. His delivery, technique, sound, and versatility are all on full display here. From the lowest lows, to the highest of highs, Ben excels at every aspect one could ask for in an extreme metal band. Shadow is no stranger to Dimmu Borgir style "spoken word" style vocals, but they are definitely a fantastic element that adds just that little bit extra variety in the record. Trevor Strnad is the only guest spot on the album, but he delivers so much to Barren's replayability with his trademark vocal style, and he is given two verses to shine, one of which leads in to a solo. If you are gonna do a feature, that is how you do it.
Chris Wiseman's talent behind the fretboard seems to be endless as he effortlessly shreds some of the most intricate, yet beautiful riffs, and solo's I've heard all year. Couple that with fantastic vocal, and percussion transitions into said solo's, and you've got yourselves a near flawless guitar performance. He also has a fantastic set of "clean" backing vocals that service as a great ying-yang element to Ben's thunderous pipes. The percussion on this album was recorded by non other than Anthony Barone (A Night in Texas), and the addition of his pure talent really does wonders for this record's epic feel. Anthony really know's his craft as he delivers some of the most punishing drum segments I've heard in a long time. Each song is an endurance test blast beats, and brutality. The bassline by Andrew Monais is not to be forgotten, as it is the foundation that this masterwork was built upon. Without that needed support, added depth, and overall groove, I doubt the record would be as heavy, nor as memorable as it is.
Lyrically, Shadow of Intent has broken free of the shackles to the Halo franchise (which some die hard Halo fanatics, like myself, may be disappointed by. This notion is soon squashed due the records demand for your total attention) that they once tied themselves to. Instead they have opted to create a concept album to tell their own story of a malicious evil goddess dubbed "the Gravesinger" which causes mass suicide to the creatures of the Earth, and our protagonist kills themselves early on, and the record is essentially a journey through the bowels of the underworld in an attempt to escape back to reality. That is the cliffnotes explanation, but the lyrics themselves require a deeper look to fully understand. The records full lyrical focus is on depression, suicide, and the melancholic state of mind one is in before killing themselves, this is linked to the discovery that antidepressants led to higher suicide rates in adolescents. I appreciate the bands willingness to tackle a subject that many deal with, or have dealt with. Shadow of Intent worked with Francesco Ferrini (Fleshgod Apocalypse) to develop the orchestral, symphonic elements to their brand of symphonic deathcore/death metal, and it really adds that extra layer, and atmosphere to a record already full of meaning, and purpose.
The Dreaded Mystic Abyss is 10 minute instrumental piece that is quite possibly one of the best instrumental works ever put to music. It is a gauntlet of percussion, bass, and guitar songwriting prowess, and perfection. It hits, and hits, and hits until it ends. Never a moment to even breathe.
The only criticism I have other than the record ending is that the re-recording of "Underneath a Sullen Moon" loses a little something in the replayability department due to the breakdown not hitting as hard as it did in the original release. The drums, and atmosphere are better, but I prefer the original slightly.
Melancholy is to 2019 what Where Owls Know My Name was to 2018 for me. A Lord of the Rings-esque experience, it is more than music. This truly show's that extreme metal, and metal as a whole is art, and that art should be recognized for it's perfection.
What separates good bands from great bands is their inherent ability to create a work that does not solely rely on one style or subgenre, but instead being able to pull from many to create an amalgamation of death metal that is seemingly the best of many different subgenres. Shadow of Intent may as well not even be referred to as a "deathcore" band anymore as this record does not rely on the breakdowns, angst laden lyrics, and chugging riffs that deathcore has become synonymous with. Melancholy has shed the formulaic nature of that genre (I love deathcore) to blossom into a death metal powerhouses they deserve to become.
I could go on ad nauseam about how quality this record is, but I don't want to sound like a broken record. Instead I will leave you with this, if you consider yourself a death metal connoisseur, or just a metalhead in every sense. You owe it to yourself to experience this record. Of course, music is subjective, but there is something here for every type of metalhead. Breakdowns, solo's, vocal harmonies, catchy choruses, clean vocals, exquisite percussion, groovy bassline, and many other thing's. I urge you to listen to it, share it with friends, your family, your dog, your neighbors pet goldfish. Spread the word, let it be known that Shadow of Intent are the one's. Album of the year most certainly.
I want to thank all members of Shadow of Intent for creating a true masterpiece.
Ben, Chris, Anthony, and Andrew. We as a community love you. I love you. Keep bringing the heat.
Thanks for reading.