ShadowKeep - ShadowKeep - (8.5/10)
Published on April 9, 2018
ShadowKeep are a progressive power metal band hailing from jolly old England. They have three full-lengths to their name and after 10 years of relative inactivity, a fourth album has emerged. ShadowKeep is the band’s first album with drummer Omar Hayes and legendary Helstar vocalist James Rivera. Hopefully this brings the band’s lineup some stability as those two positions have been a bit of a revolving door in the past. James Rivera is a major upgrade for sure as he is always a force behind the mic. So what does this album have to offer?
The core of ShadowKeep has always been the twin guitar attack of Chris Allen and Nicki Robson, and this album is no exception. The riffs on here are reasonably heavy and are played at a brisk ¾ pace, providing a strong base for the rest of the band to work off. “Little Lion” has some pretty acoustic guitars but the real standouts here are the leads and solos. They range from simple to intricate but they are always technically brilliant and musically interesting. This is abundantly clear from the outset but shines especially brightly on tracks like “Horse of War” and “Isolation.” These songs are often played at a brisk pace, making this album go by in a hurry, even with the two acoustic ballads. The album’s closer, “Minotaur,” is a touch slower but still features plenty of stellar guitar leads and sincerely awesome riff patterns. As a bonus, there is a lovely acoustic section in the middle of the track. The overall guitar tone and style are somewhat reminiscent of the good parts of modern Iced Earth except ShadowKeep’s guitar work is much better and more dynamic.
Stony Grantham’s bass lines are only audible occasionally but when you can hear them, they are quite good. You can really hear his great work on “Fight Across the Sand” as well as a few lines on “Minotaur” but very little in between. Omar Hayes’ drumming, on the other hand, is a big standout on this album. He has plenty of fast-paced, hard-hitting beats to propel these songs forward but he also has interesting progressive fills on songs like “Horse of War.” This track also features plenty of intricate cymbal work, making it the most progressive track and the most interesting composition on the album. Omar also features some pretty nice double kick in his drumming arsenal and he uses it quite well on this album without overdoing it.
James Rivera is a legend and has been for quite some time. His work as Helstar’s frontman is consistently incredible and he brings instant credibility and respect as the new frontman of ShadowKeep. The instrumentation on this album is really sharp and seriously excellent overall. Let us be honest though. James Rivera is a stud and his vocals on this album are as spectacular as you would expect them to be. His high screams have the raw power of a banshee and the precision of a tiger. His low-mid range clean vocals are pretty damn good too, with great lyrics about various myths (mostly Greek) from ancient civilizations. The man is almost 60 and he has lost absolutely nothing over the 30+ years he has been doing this. He really is that good. If his performances on songs like “Flight Across the Sand,” “Angels and Omens,” and “Minotaur” do not blow you away, you need to get your ears checked.
Will this album blow your mind with its originality and creativity? Not really. It is not an AOTY contender but everything on this album is well-conceived and extremely well-executed. There are standout performances all around and the album moves at a pretty brisk pace so there really is very little to criticize. ShadowKeep know their strengths very well and they play to them nicely. It may not be the most original or creative album in the world but it still has some great progressive nuances for the keen listener to pick up. All things considered, this is a great album and one that is definitely worth a few listens.