Shadows Fall - The War Within (Cover Artwork)

Shadows Fall

The War Within (2004)

Century Media

Like most other non-metalheads, I was exposed to Shadows Fall a couple of years ago when The Art of Balance came out and kicked me in the teeth. Now, with a lot more tour dates with big acts under their belts, the boys of Shadows Fall have solidly punched me in the crotch with their new album The War Within.

People might read this and bitch because blah blah blah its metal this is a punk site yada yada yada. If that is your beef, than stop reading here. For those that care, as good as The Art of Balance was, it somehow appears that the guys of Shadows Fall got even tighter knit musically. The opening track "The Light That Blinds" opens with an eerie power metal acoustic ballad of sorts, but this quickly gives way into an explosion of double bass, awesome guitar riffs and absolutely superb harmony. The same riff churns along for a bit before Brian Fair's recognizable yell/guttural throat yelp kicks in. The riff changes that Shadows Fall is so good at are heavily prominent in this song, and their thrash influences of Metallica and Slayer shine through also. Although a metal song, it is incredibly catchy in a perverted way. Eventually it breaks down into an awesome transition to set up for their guitar solos, and Jonathan Donais and Matthew Bachand do not disappoint, especially towards the end where they kick in the ridiculous melody they used at the beginning of the song. After the solos, they head into a heavy mosh riff led by Fair's scream.

Fair's vocals are improved over the last album. The second track "Enlightened By the Cold" proves this. He relies less on his yells and yelps, but goes for more melodies, which works out perfectly when the guitars slather melody all over the song. It is almost as if he knows perfectly when to yell and when to actually carry a tune. His lyrics aren't your standard overly creepy thrash lyrics, but are intelligible and actually relatable, a rarity in true metal these days.

Shadows Fall still retain their glimpse of hardcore moments that made them appeal to me in the first place. "Act of Contrition" uses the standard gang vocals of hardcore and if it weren't for the constant double bass, the chorus would almost seem taken out of a local Jersey hardcore band. However, even in songs like these, they are still able to go into power ballads with a seemingly perfect transition, then straight into a solo chalk full of pinch harmonics, and then straight back to their semi-hardcore sound. Songs like these demonstrate the versatility of these guys, and it is a definite improvement over The Art of Balance.

Virtually every song is as great as the three mentioned above, and those are the first three songs in order. "Ghost of Past Failure" is a throwback to the influences of Slayer and Metallica and shows that Shadows Fall can compete on the same level as the groups that created the genre they play in. The music is great, the drumming greater, and the solos on their own damn level. The Art of Balance was great, but The War Within is that much better. A must own for anyone that likes the slightest bit of metal. The best part about the album, is although everyone anticipated it would happen a couple of years ago, with this album, Shadows Fall has bulldozed the door to allow other bands like Killswitch, Unearth, Lamb of God, etc reach new heights.