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There’s no bullshit about this album. No filler. No pissing around, playing for time. Straight up with no bells and whistles is “The Unknown”, and it’s pretty fucking clear that lead guitarist Jonathan Donais is the star of the show this time around. The first track is constructed entirely around his melodic leads, and the solo is brilliantly executed.
The second thing you notice is that Jason Bittner, the band’s drummer, has gone slightly more insane in the gap between this release and the last. 2009’s stellar “Retribution” was an intense offering from the band all-round, but Bittner has upped his game this time around, delivering particularly impressive double bass rolls and even some brilliant blast beat sections.
The songs themselves are essentially standard Shadows Fall, not that that’s a bad thing. They’re well put together and the album is very well arranged. Arguably, the opener isn’t as brilliant as Retribution’s “My Demise”, but it is pretty damn hard to beat that song. The rest of the band performs brilliantly, too. Rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Matthew Bachand delivers some brutal gutturals and, if I’m not mistaken, even delivers a furious solo in one or two tracks.
The production is great, and every instrument and element can be heard very well including Paul Romanko’s bass, which resonates a deep metallic tone across the sound.
The one thing that mars this record is Brian Fair. His vocals aren’t bad by a long shot, but after so many Shadows Fall albums with him present, he still hasn’t changed from his standard throaty screams and yells. They seem slightly dull amidst the furious musicianship of the rest of the band.
But I think it’s important that I cover just how brilliantly Jonathan Donais performs on this offering. There is not a single song spared from his glorious soloing, and I mean glorious in every sense of the word. While there isn’t quite as many intro solos as the last record, his phrasing and shredding have improved a lot. There’s a lot more power behind the notes and a fuckload more sweep picking, which gives a fantastic sense of class to the mix.
A great record for long-time fans and also a great taster for perspective new audiences. However, if you are a new fan, you might want to check out “My Demise” from the last record as well, as that’s a fucking awesome song.