Shadows Fall

Leaving metal powerhouse Century Media for the tempting pastures of major label Atlantic proved to be an ill move for Shadows Fall. Atlantic proved pretty quick they had virtually no clue how to properly promote a metal band in this day and age, and it certainly didn’t help on the bands end that they somewhat lightened their sound, adding more clean vocals and stripping most of the piss and vinegar that made their previous albums such a hit with their fans. So now they’ve come full circle, moving back to independent label status, forming their own Everblack Industries as part of Warner Bros Independent Label Group.

Their 6th outing, Retribution sees the Massachusetts based band bringing back some of that fire, some of that aggression that was largely gutted from Threads of Life, but it’s still a mixed bag. Tracks like “Still I Rise” start promising enough with some heavy hitting riffs and verses, but comes to a screeching halt when the uber radio friendly, clean and hard rock tinged chorus kicks in, leaving one wondering “why?”. “Picture Perfect” is a total failure all around, a near ballad sounding much like a leftover from the Threads of Life sessions. It’s just lacking any kind of momentum or power, and the hook is much too sugary and limp – it’s sure to be single at some point.

They’re at their best when they just let it rip and thrash out, such as heard on “War”, where there’s no clean vocals to be found, and instead reintroduces some of those long lost death growls. It’s short, but to the point and hits like a mac truck. The albums first proper track, “My Demise” is also pretty mean, but breaks towards the middle to mellow out with some clean vocals and guitar. “King of Nothing” is a little slower but still tough as nails, displaying a bit more of their hardcore side. Lamb of God‘s Randy Blythe makes a guest appearance here, providing some dual vocals with Mr. Fair for the chorus.

“The Taste of Fear” and “Embrace Annihilation” are two tracks that fit the mold of a Threads of Life or possibly even The War Within type of track, where the aggression is kind of stripped back and there are plenty of clean vocal parts, specifically the chorus, but in this case they make it work better than anything from the last album. It took some time to appreciate them, but they’re solid enough.

The highlight of the album by far though are the last two tracks, “A Public Execution” and “Dead and Gone” – these two bring the thrash and bring the heavy in grand fashion. Together or independently, they are the most focused sounding songs they’ve penned since The War Within, and maybe even exceeding that album. Both incorporate some clean vocals, but keep it to a minimum, letting the intensity take center stage to carry the songs.

While Shadows Fall haven’t broke any new ground on Retribution, they make a strong attempt to recover lost ground, and mostly succeed. I’m sure they won’t win over any new fans, but Retribution should satisfy current fans and possibly even win back some that jumped ship on the last album. As a fan myself, I wanted to see more of a return to form, but Retribution is enough to at least solidify my faith in them.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Larry "Staylow" Owens
October 2nd, 2009


  1. Commented by: mike

    I think this is a MASSIVE return to form. In the end, it’s probably 1-2 tracks too short, but it balances heaviness vs. melody so much better than Threads of Life did.

    Embrace Annihilation is my fav track, particularly the last 45 seconds which reminds me of the awesome Thoughts Without Words on The Art of Balance.

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