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With today's level of technology and the accessibility of it, one-man projects are far from rare. Where one once had to rely on session musicians or having to play everything by oneself, you can nowadays get machines that can do most things for you. What machines still can't do for you is write your material, and the lack of varied input and feedback means that some, if not most, one-man bands suck uncontrollably. I was surprised to find that Only a Shadow Remains is a band that not only has a good sound for a solo-project but also has a relatively solid and varied output.
I was originally supposed to review Only a Shadow Remains' second EP, Premeditated, but I ended up reviewing The Grinding Stone, the band's newest EP, instead. Now, I did listen to Premeditated before listening to The Grinding Stone, and honestly not much has changed in the time between the two EPs were released. It's not necessarily bad that the band has a steady and consistent output, but the only real surprise I got with The Grinding Stone was that this release consists of 21 tracks of relative short length. Only a Shadow Remains centers around gory vocals, growled vocals and heavy but melodic guitar riffs, and this is definitely still the case with The Grinding Stone, even if the riffs have gotten much heavier than previously, but naturally I thought, given the title and the length of the songs and the sheer amount of tracks on the EP, that the band had adopted a more grindcore-inspired aspect. However, I found that this simply wasn't the case, even if the band has gotten heavier. Premeditated featured songwriting that bore a heavy nod towards the old classics of death metal, but on the Grinding Stone EP the band has switched to a much more modern and brutal focus.
On The Grinding Stone EP, Only a Shadow Remains leaves a little less room for melodic riffs and hooks, but the vocals have become more varied, varying from traditional growls to hoarse screams. The riffing was what attracted me to the earlier material from the band, and because this new incarnation of Only a Shadow Remains focus less on those aspects, it is far less personal and sinister than the previous EP.
The EP is well executed, but it is at the same time pretty generic. The songs are generally too short, meaning that only rarely does a song achieve any momentum, and I found that most songs seemed to end rather abruptly. Armon Nicholson has previously proven that he is no novice songwriter, but his talents aren't properly showcased on The Grinding Stone as they were on Premeditated. As such I think the longer songs on this EP are by far the best, and all in all the songs fit well together. But ultimately The Grinding Stone feels unfinished, and the amount of short songs makes it feel like the EP consists of mostly unfinished ideas for songs. It shows potential, but the overall picture needs work. The songs don't show enough individuality to justify having so many short tracks on one release. I would much rather have had an EP where the songwriting is condensed into 4-6 songs rather 21 like on The Grinding Stone, such as it was on Premeditated.
Originally posted on http://gouls-crypt.blogspot.com/