Music Reviews

Shadows Fall

Of One Blood

Century Media

Mostly propagated by the “alternative”-minded likes of Spin and Alternative Press, the term “new metal” bears little truth in both components of the loaded genre-tag. For the most part, the sounds falling under this ripped n’ torn banner are hard rockin’ angst for the excessively pierced set, lame “crossover” crap that’s nowhere near as cogent and compelling as the aforementioned press would have you believe. And, sadly, these sounds are undeniably American.

One record guaranteed to have cataclysmic effect on the definition of real “new metal” in America is Shadows Fall’s second album, Of One Blood. Though many years and many otherwise-great metal records have passed since Metallica’s monumental Ride The Lightning, as well as the persistence of time and the opportunity (and responsibility) to reflect on all that’s transpired in the influential album’s wake, heralding Of One Blood as the blueprint for underground metal in the coming decade wouldn’t be too heretic of a move. Few records so strictly adhere to the tenets – song-craft, chops, melody/harmony, power, elan, speed, groove, and dynamics, all of which comprising an etched-in-steel identity – that should be the basis for stun-potential (mental, physical, emotional) heavy metal as this album does, Shadows Fall’s only current competitor (and they have a larger backlog) being Sweden’s In Flames.

But to call Shadows Fall “the American In Flames” would be shortsighted and lazy, to say the least. The most fundamental difference between the two is In Flames’ folk background versus Shadows Fall’s hardcore one: the former infuses Scandinavian folk themes into their ripping NWOBHM melodies, whereas the latter brings to the table the chugging, blood-stained breakdowns redolent of this country’s hardcore scene, no doubt influenced by vocalist Brian Fair’s stint in the now-disbanded Overcast. Again, comparisons between the two may be a piddling exercise that only serves to undercut both bands’ credibility, but the point being made is that Shadows Fall exhibit the same top-tier level of class In Flames has thrived on while still retaining a unique scope.

The unique scope here then, is Shadows Fall’s far-flung ingenuity, one so far-flung as to recall Iron Maiden’s epic 1983 album, Piece Of Mind. Like classic Maiden, various riff and rhythm patterns get thrown through the band’s blender, but what emerges is the quintessence of catchy, Shadows Fall burning torches and blowing minds while clear-headedly commandeering the onslaught toward a, daresay, hummable directive, the tracks in the snow skittering out of line every so often yet deeply embedded in the linear. Yep, Of One Blood is one hell of a bloody ride, with Fair’s multi-faceted vocals straddling a radio-ready croon and a gut-busting growl, both styles perfectly mirroring his bandmates’ collision of instantly-ingraining melody with hammering death-metal gallop.

No filler, no fidgeting, no dross, no diffusion: every minute groove on Of One Blood speaks volumes of Shadows Fall’s painstaking deliberation to produce a record wholly bent on searing souls while elevating them at the same time. Without lapsing into hyperbole again, it’s tantamount to stress that Of One Blood is a contender to the throne of higher-consciousness metal, a veritable kick in the ass to the metal underground to rise out of the ghetto and push some envelopes worth pushing. In a word, brilliant.

Century Media, 1453-A 14th St., Suite 324, Santa Monica, CA 90404;

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