Shadows Fall

Retribution

Written by: BL on 08/11/2009 00:13:12

One of the earlier metalcore bands and having members from genre pioneers Overcast (some of the others went on to become Killswitch Engage), Shadows Fall have always enjoyed a fair level of success throughout their 14 year history after their hit release "The Art Of Balance" and decent follow up "The War Within". Sporting a great band name certainly helps to make you a little more memorable in the long run too, especially when the music slowly becomes lost in memory over time. I have a vague recollection of the last album "Threads Of Life" - as only a few of the songs were anything other than ordinary. This was probably enough for most people to write them off at the time, but now they'd be missing out on return to form when they hear "Retribution".

It's trademark Shadows Fall from top to bottom: the aggressive and dirty thrash influenced riffing, the blitzing lead licks, the occasional acoustic medley, and the classic yet vastly improved Brian Fair vocals. Indeed over the albums Brian has grown as a vocalist. His screams are thicker and more powerful while his clean vocals have come along way from once being mildly annoying and off tune, to strong and tuneful. Elsewhere the guitars from Matt Bachand and Jonathon Donais are back to their blazing best. I mean sure enough they haven't reinvented thrash metalcore nor have they cracked open the seams of a somewhat restrictive genre, but some of the riffing on this album is just wickedly convincing after some lacklustre material from "Threads Of Life". The've managed to rediscover the art of balancing their aggression and their melody and now its far better than its been for some time, while ensuring that nothing has been lost in the process. Songs like "War", "King Of Nothing" and "A Public Execution" are heavy (and in fact some of the heaviest they've done), but yet there's still a catchy melodic component that they can't be without. Elsewhere "Still I Rise" is perhaps one of the most well rounded efforts I've heard from them. All round the songs are well done and enjoyable despite being occasionally lengthy.

Jonathon still keeps churning out these quality showcase guitar solos one after another from start to finish (the solo on "Dead And Gone" is a real ear opener and my favourite on this CD), his fingers leaving scorch marks over the fretboard. Jason Bittner's drum beats are as good as always, and he still impresses with his foot work on the bass pedals which are still a core part of the music (as they have to be for a band if they want to be considered decent in my view). Paul Romanko's bass guitar unfortunately doesn't get much room to shine in such a guitar-orientated band, but you can always just make it out in the back, just being solid enough to add a bit of low end support. The production is slick and has an edgy polish to it, most certainly benefiting the more hard hitting moments, but at the same time keeping the softer parts warm and gleaming (made more obvious by how similar the 2 main acoustic parts of the album sound - the intro track and the start of "Picture Perfect").

While "Retribution" is nothing to get overexcited about in one sense, especially if you've never been a fan of Shadows fall (or metalcore), it's still a strong outing that does the band no wrong. Certainly an improvement over its dull predecessor too in many ways and it lacks all that repeating baggage that comes with modern metalcore bands like overused dissonant breakdowns, generic melodic death metal riffs and cheap attempts at being poppy. They have yet to make that leap over their genre peers, and as one can expect, can sound kind of similar to them at times too - but nevertheless a worthwhile addition to one's music collection if one isn't bothered by that fact.

7

Download: Still I Rise, King Of Nothing, Picture Perfect
For the fans of: All That Remains, God Forbid, Unearth, Trivium
Listen: Myspace

Release date 15.09.2009
Spinefarm Records

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