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Only a Shadow Remains is a one-man band, helmed and operated by Armon Nicholson. Based out of California, Nicholson formed the band in 2009 and recently released his second EP – a short but succulent twenty-five minute record known as Premeditated. Nicholson’s genre of choice happens to be a lovely mix of death metal instrumentation and blackened vocals, which results in quite the listening experience for people like you and I. His drumming fits like a glove, the guitar lines are designed to boost the sound above and beyond what it would be otherwise, and the best part is – I shit you not – the execution is spot on. I’d see him live, but we all know how that’d turn out. That’s right; live musicians. Ew.
Premeditated is a concept album about Nicholson’s wife being a serial killer, and his vocals have a raw edge that really adds to that theme. The low vocals that come out more often than not are very reminiscent of bands like Goatwhore, while keeping to their own kind of energy. The blackened highs, however, have such power and force behind them that really sets them on another level entirely. The vocals on Premeditated help dictate how the other instruments build the song structure, which cements them firmly as the centerpiece of this record. That’s exactly where they should be, too – they lead the sound in sheer power, and that’s what works for Nicholson.
As for the guitarwork, there’s a bit more room for improvement. I feel that the longer you listen to Premeditated, the more and more sophisticated Nicholson’s guitarwork gets. That’s no mental trickery, either; there are a slew of leads in some of the later songs, and you can really tell how it improves the flow of those tracks. That’s not to say there’s no allure in the early tracks – there is. It might not be as palpable, but aside from when the guitar lines involve a lot of dirty and chunky repetition, you can easily tell Nicholson has a fair amount of skill in the guitar department. He hasn’t shown off anything of a virtuoso’s level, but there are some enjoyable leads that do a lot to help listeners tell which track is which.
The drumwork is very solid on this album, despite not being on the same level as the vocals or guitars in the mixing. It’s especially effective in setting the pace; if the drums of a song start out slow, like on “Halls of Gore”, you probably aren’t going to hear a sudden explosion or a skyrocketing BPM. The same is true for mid-paced and fast-paced tracks. The drums are the pacemaker, and that’s nothing out of the ordinary – but it works. What the drums are comprised of varies from track to track, but you can expect a fair amount of bass peddle action, as well as a helluva lot of blast beats when you hit the final track on the record.
When it comes right down to it, Nicholson delivers a very fun listen with Only a Shadow Remains’ Premeditated. It’s a short record that isn’t terribly focused musically, but has an engaging lyrical theme and manages to impart that concept through all of its instruments. In short, Premeditated doesn’t have the makings of a classic, but it’s a thoroughly-enjoyable death metal record with a solid attention to detail and a bit of a laid-back approach in the serious department. As good as it is, though, I’d like to see how mister Nicholson would do if he wrote himself a full-length album.
1.) Born to Kill
3.) The Anticipation of Torture
8.) Hiding the Remains