SHADOWLORD hail from the Netherlands and for a change they are NOT Gothic Metal, which apart from more or less hefty Death Metal seems to be the only thing to come from there in the past months. Instead they play Black Metal and a pretty keyboardy variant of it. While browsing through the internet I have found a few pretty annihilating reviews (which outnumber the few positive ones I could find by far), so that I approached "Scourge Of Heaven", the debut of the band, with rather mixed feelings.
The visual side of the CD is very interesting, with medieval pictures and the whole nine yards, nothing to complain about here, the sound from the New Road Studio also is clear and has some power, so also good. Hm… Then the only problem could be the music of the Dutch folks. And after the obligatory intro "Prelude" the first song of the three parts of this album ("Historia", "Indicius" and "Cantus Lugubris"), "Murder On Devils Mountain", sets out.
Keyboard support is there, no doubt about this, and the music is the Melodic or Symphonic Black that one would expect now, with many blastbeats and Black Metal riffing and vocals between Death and Black Metal. And there we have one of the problems of SHADOWLORD: the riffing. It is not bad, but in many cases sounds like heard so (too) often, nothing outstanding or really memorable. Rather older DIMMU BORGIR and also SATYRICON shine through, partly also because of the at times very dominant use of the keyboards.
What strikes when looking at the line up is the fact that they have two singers in the formation, Cor and Marit, but we cannot hear any female vocals. If you start to search here, trying to find a soprano supporting the harsh voice, won't have much success, because the secret is that Marit does not do the regular vocals, but the Black Metal screeching, while Cor fully concentrates on the Death Metal growl.
As mentioned before, opener "Murder On Devils Mountain" comes crashing through and the first songs overall, plus a short instrumental sound pretty generic to my ears, often fast, heavy, with quite some keyboards, but only little really sticks. That "Scourge Of Heaven" is not a total black out, though, is shown by the two songs 7 and 8, more precisely the title track "Scourge Of Heaven" and "Ad Mortem Proficisi". Here they reduce the tempo quite a bit and bring in more atmosphere, but a lot better used than in the other tracks, which sounds really good, so there is hope!
Altogether SHADOWLORD unfortunately suffer from the problem that they have not been able to inject enough own blood into their sound (yet) to stand out from the masses. "Scourge Of Heaven" (the song) and "Ad Mortem Proficisi" are two great examples, though, what this band is able to I hope that they will be able to continue in this direction, then I really see a future for this Nijmegen based band. (Online January 24, 2004)