|Two years after their breakout sophomore effort “Asylum Of The Human Predator,” Lowell’s HELL WITHIN return with a new album and a new approach.
Having been a solid Metalcore act up to now, “Shadows Of Vanity” shows a distinct progression into Thrash territory highlighted by a soaring clean vocal approach that dominates the vocal arrangements over flying high end guitars that solo as often as they run.
Whilst the new direction suggests an increased appeal from the Metal community, “Shadows Of Vanity” comes across very uninspired and overly accessible. Sure at times the vocals take on a clean growl and even some blackened rasps, but more often they take an early nineties Thrash vibe which textures itself boringly against guitars that reuse AT THE GATES, IRON MAIDEN and KORN riffs, possessing too much melody in the place of venom.
In tracks like “My Exit In Red” and “Lay Down Your Arms,” where HELL WITHIN return to the Metalcore of old, the new clean vocal approach gives the music an uncomfortable and jarring emo feel which juxtaposes awkwardly against sparse breakdowns and growled vocal elements, an vibe continued in the final two tracks that take a mainstream sound and riff selection betwixt Nu-Metal and old school that just come across as mindlessly insipid and at odds with the choice of guitar sound.
The production, which is crisp, even and spotlessly clean illustrates HELL WITHIN’s problem, they have become a little too clean cut and the music becomes clinical and accessibly pandering. Added to that some distinctly limited songwriting and lyrics that are beyond horribly contrived and Metal clichéd and you have little to make this a worthwhile purchase.
Despite a worthwhile and powerful effort from the rhythm section, “Shadows Of Vanity” is like an album of Thrash/Metalcore B-sides hurt by a versatile vocalist determined to use clean vocals beyond the context of unmemorable riffing. The riffing is in fact so nondescript that having just listened to the album four times in three hours I can not relay a single rhythm or lead.
(Online July 4, 2007)