I had heard of Shadows Fall a few years ago, but for some reason, never developed a true devotion to their music. I had picked up 'Of One Blood' on clearance, and was unimpressed. It seemed too 'death-metal' for my tastes at the time. I bit later I tried 'The War Within', which I also found used. I found this album much more appealing, but still wrote them off as a poor-man's Killswitch Engage. I listened to this CD a bit more than the previous one, but still lost interest after a week or two.
Then, in late '09, came the turning point when I scanned their newest album, Retribution, at a bookstore sampling station. I heard the intro track, 'The Path to Imminent Ruin', and was instantly hooked. My eyes widened at the difference I heard on this recording. Each track seemed like polished perfection compared to anything I had heard from them previously. I hesitated no further, and added this to my purchase.
For the next several weeks, listening to Retribution became a near daily ritual for me. This album had instantly become one of my favorite releases of the year. Shadows Fall can hit you with heavy, thrash style metal, but an instant later will slip into a clean melodic segment. Brian Fair's vocals can scream like metal-core, growl in a deeper near-death-metal style, or sing in classic melodic-style ranges. Again, some of these elements were present on their older releases, just not to the degree of quality that I hear on this release. Retribution seems to strike the perfect balance of elegance and brutality.
Not to be overlooked is the guitar soloing on this album. Lead guitarist, Jonathan Donias, tears up the fretboard with a classic, shredding guitar style that would make the likes of Marty Friedman, or Glenn Tipton jealous. To be honest, this is my favorite element of their sound. Each track I look forward to hearing what the guitar solos might have in store. The quality of guitar work on this album is enough that I want to eat my words from my previous comparison to Killswitch Engage, for I now feel that Shadows Fall are much better at the art of the guitar solo!
From the acoustic intro of 'The Path to Imminent Ruin', they fade into 'My Demise', one of the heaviest tracks on the album. From there it just gets more intense, as almost every track rips your eardrums with ferocious heavy riffs. They even have a cover of Bob Marley's 'War', but if it weren't for the lyrics, I wouldn't recognize it for the over-the-top intensity with which it is delivered! There are a couple tracks that do focus on the melodic side of Shadows Fall, 'The Taste of Fear' and 'Picture Perfect'. These songs really help make this album a complete, and well rounded metal experience.
If you've been on the fence about Shadows Fall as I have in years past, then I highly recommend listening to Retribution. They've raised the bar significantly on this album. Here are my suggestions to help guide you:
-The Path to Imminent Ruin
-Still I Rise
-The Taste of Fear
-Dead and Gone