Review Summary: Potential undermined by execution.
Umbra Vitae, the newest death-metal quintet fronted by Jacob Bannon, brings forth plenty of old faces to a newer sound. With a mixture of talents from Converge, The Red Chord, Uncle Acid, and Wear Your Wounds, the supergroup’s debut Shadow of Life
fires on all cylinders, invoking an immense amount of ferocity and pure chaos. To make this album a bit more digestible for the casual listener, let’s observe the pros and cons:
Shadow of Life
has a rather short runtime which greatly complements the abrasive and unrelenting heaviness that consumes the entirety of the album. In the same likeness, Umbra Vitae draws influence from each member’s previous band, coalescing into a product of mass composition that doesn’t shy away from the songwriting vein of its predecessors. Lastly, the record puts the pedal to the metal from its introduction and shows no signs of restraint through the entirety of its tracklist.
As for the cons… Well, just re-read the pros once more.
Seems a bit counterproductive, doesn’t it? Despite the cohesive efforts of Shadow of Life
, everything that works for it simultaneously combats its progression. At first glance, the short runtime doesn’t extend its welcome is greatly appreciated within context as the brutality burdens the listeners in one fell swoop, leaving little room to breathe. However, the runtime comes with a set of its own issues as it fails to provide the necessary space for the music itself to fully progress, leaving it sonically in a monotonous state of heaviness. This is ultimately expected considering the parent bands that birthed Umbra Vitae, most of which are notable for their abrasive construction of death-metal tinged instrumentation and songwriting. As pleasant as this sounds on paper, Shadow of Life
is riddled with remnants of its superior predecessors. From the hardcore-influenced riffs, to the blast beat laden drums, to Jacob Bannon’s iconic screeching, the impressive musicianship fails to evoke any sort of remarkability as it resorts to the trademarks of the orignal bands. Moreover, the members focus more on the ferocity of the genre rather than the immersive songwriting, resulting in a massive heap of intensity with little substance among tracks to fully digest, hindering the potential of the record.
However, the amalgamation of talents from the death metal veterans does not go unnoticed entirely. The vocal versatility present shines at the forefront of the album, seamlessly moving from highs to lows effortlessly. The heavy-riffing of the guitars are effectively complemented by melodic, albeit scattered, harmonies embedded within the atmosphere of Shadow of Life
. Jon Rice’s efforts behind the drum are technically proficient on every front, bringing forth a performance of superb talent. The album’s concluding moments emphasize the sheer songwriting chemistry preserved within the vast lineup, as the highlight of the record closes the album with a culmination of each individual aspect of the preceding tracks. The melody, riffs, diversity, and instrumental proficiency concludes the journey perfectly as the band takes the best of their talents and displays them through a cohesive track of finality. Nonetheless, Umbra Vitae only present brief moments of potential, leaving a bittersweet taste in the mouths of listeners desiring more from what the band has to offer.