Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Shadows Fall - The Art of Balance

Have you ever found yourself panning for gold in an icy northern California stream? Wading through the spring thaw and finding, wedged in between some slime-covered rocks, a chunk of shining metal? Kind of a cool idea. Well, without going through the physical extremes, I recently found myself on a similar trek, with similar results.

Shadows Fall is about as fine a metal as real gold! From the first distorted notes of Idle Hands to the last strains of the most epic rendition of Pink Floyd’s Welcome To The Machine, I realize that I’ve stumbled onto something special. They’ve been touted as being “ Poised on the cusp of metal greatness “ by Transworld Stance, and me thinks that they would be correct!

The music has a classic Iron Maiden quality with it’s flowing scales and chaotic bursts of sound to graceful acoustic interludes. Lead guitarist Jonathan Donais showers us with some of the most captivating and melodic guitar work that I’ve heard from a metal band in quite some time. The solo for Stepping Outside the Circle and The Art of Balance are tasteful with just a touch of virtuosity.

As for the rest of the band, they compliment each other extremely well. The rolling time changes remind me, again, of Iron Maiden, as do the guitar harmonies. Very reminiscent of the glory days of heavy metal!

The break in the middle portion of Mystery of One Spirit is phenomenal, with it’s jazzy tones that blend perfectly with the more aggressive guitar solos. The whole CD keeps the listener, well . . . listening. You’re never really quite sure what the band intends to do next, which makes this one a fun listen.

While the music tends to remind me of the more traditional metal bands, the vocals bleed with the aggression of the world of hardcore. But don’t take that to mean that Brian Fair can’t sing. He carries that hardcore sound with a touch of melody to make things interesting. Though I do believe that if Shadows Fall is going to take that next step to “ metal greatness,” Mr. Fair will have to find a greater range. Don’t get me wrong, his voice works great on this album, but if in ten years Shadows Fall release The Art of Balance, Part V, I will be disappointed.

The whole album is a highlight, but the tracks that I suggest you pay close attention to are Thoughts Without Words, The Art of Balance, Mystery of One Spirit, A Fire In Babylon (which should get a honorable mention for the brilliant composition and musicianship, every member shines like the sun of their own solar system), and Welcome to the Machine - Roger Waters should be pleased, but who really knows what’s going on in the mind of that guy!

I would usually reserve this area for my more negative comments, but I have nothing. That’s not to say that every moment on The Art of Balance is good, but it’s hard to find anything bad. If I were to find a negative within this disc, it would be Brian Fair’s vocals, but as I mentioned . . . it works for now. Hell, listen to Welcome to the Machine and tell me this guy doesn’t have the potential to create his own voice.

It’s albums like this that make me excited to dip my feet into those icy streams in hopes to find more gold. Thanks guys, hell of a job, hell of an album, and don’t lose sight of what made this magic happen. - Pope JTE

Buy here: The Art of Balance

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