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I'll be honest, I wasnt really expecting much out of Kataklysm's "Shadows and Dust." I had heard one or two tracks out of context of the album and, although I thought they were good songs, I was confident the album would simply be another compendum of over-used death metal riffs and clickity clack drumming. In fact, what I was surprised to hear was a strong album with a traditional metal influence and some of the best clickity clack telegraphic drumming I've exposed myself to. "Shadows and Dust" us a blending of metal past, present and future, hinting at an impending rift in the overgenrenation of metal and return to simpler days when a heavily distorted guitar and lyrics about the darker realities of life earned you the title of heavy metal and not some unecesary pinpoint categorization term in an attempt to sort music out to irrelevant levels.
The production on this album is nice, clear and not overproduced to the point of hospital like clinicality. The guitars are clear yet dispicably dirty. Leads are easy to hear and decipher. The bass is a bit indistinguishable; a sham - Stephane Barb put a lot of effort into the record, I'm sure. The drum production is nice and crisp however, the clicking bass drum sound simpy doesnt appeal to me. A bass drum is not supposed to sound like slapping a raw turkey with wooden spoons. Still, the bass drum sound is not so bad that the album becomes unlistenable. The vocal production is also strong on the part of the producer/ guitarist, Jean Francois Dageais. Though this helps, vocalist Maurizio Iacono still sounds somewhat underpar and underinspired.
The album touts some ground crushing material. Songs such as the title track, "In Shadows and Dust", "Bound In Chains" and "Illuminati" are powerful tracks worth a listen. The album contains little filler though songs "Chronicles of the Damned" and "Face the Face of War" don't live up to the strengths of songs such as the epic "Century" and popular "Where the Enemy Sleeps." "Illuminati" and closer "Year of Enlightenment" are strong tracks with some traditional metal flair apparent. The songs string together to create a diverse album with a strong unified coherency. "Bound In Chains" displays some Morbid Angel inspired riffs and the black metal-esque shrieks of Iacono add to the overall diversity. This shrieks tend to sound weak and forced however. They bubble in the throat as if Maurizio was gargling some water instead of peeling flesh like intended. Still, these vocals add some much appreciated vocal dynamics rarely heard in death metal.
"Shadows and Dust" comes off strong with some memorable songs and riffs, yet small details prevent perfect marks. A strong release none-the-less and an equally strong display of Dageai's production talent. Simple, strong song structures help the album breathe and allow for some awesome leads and harmonies also. A worthy release with some minor flaws, but flaws that can be put on the back burner while the rest of the album is enjoyed.