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Shadows Fall - Retribution

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Friday, September 11, 2009 @ 5:47 PM


(Everblack Industries/Ferret Music/Independent Label Group)

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Now this is a bit more like it. After stumbling with 2007's slick, bland, big-label debut Threads of Life, Springfield, Mass.-holes Shadows Fall have rediscovered their balls and with Retribution get back to the thrash-core histrionics that earned them attention in the first place.

The band actually take a couple steps backward here to get themselves headed in the right direction again, establishing their own independent label as part of some convoluted distribution arrangement we needn't get into here, and reconnecting with producer Zeuss who worked on 2004's Top 20 smash The War Within, among others. These moves have helped bring back some of the hunger and sheer abandon Shadows Falls let get away on Threads, where they were working directly under the Atlantic Records umbrella with big-time producer Nick (Rush, Foo Fighters) Raskulinecz.

Indeed, if anything, the band overcompensate a bit on Retribution , their sixth studio album, loading up on fleet-fingered guitar solos, dive-bomb riffs, brutal hooks and bracing thrash to make up for what was missing on Threads. Indeed at times they overpower the melody they've always had a knack for. But that's better than the other way around, which was Threads' big problem - too much catchiness, not enough ass kicking.

Though giving a sense of "here we go again" with the acoustic opening interlude "The Path to Imminent Ruin," Shadows Fall quickly get busy throwing down with "My Demise," a seven-minute orgy of all of the above, not to mention tempo changes galore, a bit of death-metal croaking in the choruses and lots of Brian Fair’s soaring vocals. It sets the tone for much of the rest of what Retribution has in store.

"War" and "Public Execution," with its "fuck it all" mantra, are full-on ragers, with a nice bite of righteous anger, plenty of barking and a bruising delivery heavy on both thrash and "core." "King of Nothing," "Taste of Fear" and epic album closer "Dead and Gone" are less frantic, but boast more heft thanks to the beefy riffing of Matt Bachand and Jon Donais and Fair's teeth-clenched shouting. And with Zeuss, who's well-schooled in metal/thrash/hardcore having worked with everyone from Hatebreed, The Acacia Strain and The Red Chord to All That Remains, twiddling the knobs, the sound retains its raw edge and oomph, never seeming too polished or processed - something that could not be said of Threads.

Not that Retribution is a perfect album - though its faults are outweighed by its strengths. There still are some rather "meh!" middle of the road moments, notably “Picture Perfect" and the puzzlingly melodic “welcome to the apocalypse” choruses that all but neuter the otherwise pummeling “Embrace Annihilation.” And there is a sameness about a handful of songs - "Still I Rise," the aforementioned "Dead and Gone," "Picture Perfect" and "Annihilation" - in the way they build to their sweeping, harmony-drenched choruses that makes things rather predictable.

But the same was true of War Within and Threads, so it's just something that, for better or worse, has been part and parcel with Shadows Fall since they started really embracing melody with 2002's Art of Balance. And with the added punch and tenacity the band have brought to the table here it's less of an annoyance.

* * * 1/2


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