Ever since their career establishing album, “The War Within” in 2004, SHADOWS FALL have been desperately trying to recapture the balance of mainstream melody and heaviness that made that one of the best Metalcore releases since the genre’s inception. Since its release, the band has risen to major label status and continues to be one of the biggest names in Metal, but the band has never been able to recapture themselves on album again in such a way.
Now, half a decade later the band finds itself as close to reclaiming the brilliance on their latest album, “Retribution”. The aptly named album has SHADOWS FALL at their heaviest since they went towards a more standard Metalcore sound and the album is perhaps their most cohesive and focused effort yet.
This time around the band seems to balance the heavy and the catchy a lot better (especially since their identity crisis that was “Threads Of Life”) as they balance themselves better on the album as a whole and within song themselves. There is still some work to be done to make the mix brilliant again as the middle of the album tends to flounder a bit in comparison to the openers and closers, but the band is finally hitting stride.
One thing about SHADOWS FALL is that even though this is perhaps their most focused album yet, there still is a bit of meandering in the mix. Some of the more Progressive tracks tend to weave around a little too much and although it works at times (like on the impressive opening song “My Demise” and its odd jumps from Death Metal influence to acoustic breaks) sometimes it just wanders a bit much for my taste. I miss the days when the band really brought it hard and heavy for an entire song instead of just sections – although “War” comes close. I’d like to see Brian Fair really hit those gutturals again with some steam…just my preference though.
One aspect that really impressed me with “Retribution” was the more open sense of guitar work on it. Although the dueling guitars have always been my favorite aspect of SHADOWS FALL, the band tends to really generate some diverse sounding stuff. In their earlier days it seemed as though lots of the soloing was shred based and later on became a bit too mainstream. This time though they mix them pretty nicely into a concoction that is both impressive and catchy. Throw in some of their pretty intense riffs and I was happy with the result.
Although I don’t think SHADOWS FALL have quite come back to full potential again on “Retribution”, it’s the closest they have been for a while and I definitely found myself enjoying the band more on this album then I have in a long time. They finally have found a pretty solid balance on this one and both fans and newcomers will find elements to enjoy.
Songs to check out: “My Demise”, “Still I Rise”, “A Public Execution”.
(Online October 4, 2009)