Review: Shadows Fall, "Retribution"
Released September 15th, 2009
Super Thrash Bros.
Shadows Fall is a band who’s career it has been interesting to follow. Of One Blood, released in 2000, saw the introduction of singer Brian Fair into the band and tightened some of the ends left loose on their debut, Somber Eyes To The Sky. 2002’s The Art of Balance was generally well-recieved, and with the release of The War Within, many people considered the Massachusetts band to be at the apex of their career. While considered the band’s personal Master of Puppets (for those of us audacious enough to mention the record in the same breath as any NWOAHM band), Threads of Life struck me as more of a Black Album effort. The switch to Atlantic Records seemed to have Shadows Fall incorporating less of the heavy elements they’re known for, opting for a cleaner vocal approach and generally safer, more mechanical songwriting. While ToL was certainly a listenable effort, being a fan of their heavier work I was anxious to see what direction the band would take on their newest, Retribution.
Fortunately for everyone involved, this is where the Metallica comparisons come to an end; unlike the followup record to The Black Album, Shadows Fall’s latest effort is something metal fans will actually listen to. For anyone who may not have caught the thrash influences in their earlier work, Retribution makes them impossible to miss. “War” riffs along at the furious pace fans have come to expect from guitar duo Jon Donais and Matt Bachand, skillfully blending early Megadeth-style elements with NWOAHM ferocity. Combined with Jason Bittner’s percussive assault,Retribution delivers a metalcore battering with strong thrash overtones, broken up in the right places by softer acoustic passages and Fair’s clean melodies. The band does a better job on this record combining the heavier and more melodic elements of their sound, apparent on songs like “My Demise”, “Picture Perfect”, and the single “Still I Rise”.
Retribution is not a huge leap from Shadows Fall’s previous release… it’s more like Threads of Life v2.0. Whether the band is simply more comfortable with their evolution, or more comfortable with their new label (or likely, both), it’s easily apparent on this record. It showcases Brian Fair’s vocal growth while still maintaining the heaviness of their catalogue leading up to The Art of Balance. While pushing the band’s boundaries musically, it doesn’t compromise any integrity or fall into the monotonous song composition of ToL. For those of you partial to the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, Retribution easily deserves a spot in your collection. For those who are already fans of Shadows Fall, this album won’t disappoint, being easily their best release since 2004.