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Before I became an extreme metal fan, I was into modern metalcore: Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, Devildriver, Scars of Tomorrow, The Autumn Offering, etc. Now, after a good four years, I’d like to go back and review some of the albums that quickly got me though the transitional period between being a fan of hard rock and graduating to becoming a headbanging, fanatical, psychotic, militant metalhead.
Shadows Fall’s “Of One Blood”, despite being held back by poor production, is still a great album, and looking back on it from the perspective of a fan of brutal death metal and grim black metal, the nostalgia kicks in immediately. Brian Fair’s debut on vocals is intense. They are just harsh enough to keep fans of metalcore listening but also to appeal to fans of heavier music. The riffing is genuinely melodic but still has some of that hardcore/metal grit to it, and the drumming is a superb thrash/death metal focal point of the album.
Each song on this album is very well written. The title song and “The First Noble Truth” upon first listen seem to be a continuance of the same song because of how well they are placed together, but in actuality are different but perfectly in tune songs that complement each other and create a good flow for the album. Unlike some that sound choppy with four or five second breaks between songs, these two songs blend into a good flow that sets the stage for the rest of the album.
There are very few breakdowns, something that makes any album in the metalcore/deathcore genres stand out, but the way that Shadows Fall is so in tune with the beginnings of metal as well as their metal sub-genre is well displayed. From the soloing to the setup of some of the choruses, this album is a great look at the contributions of early metal and hard rock like the riffing of Black Sabbath, the choruses of Deep Purple, and solo breaks of Led Zeppelin to the thrash metal drumming, NWOBHM and early black metal atmospherics and twin guitar melody, the hardcore style nonsensical song titles and tempo changes, and even the Metallica influenced acoustic openings to songs like “Root Bound Apollo”. This album showcases an era of a truly great band that knows what they’re doing.
The acoustic break in “To Ashes” after an intense thrash metal explosion opens a great tremolo picked speed section. Setting up Fair’s vocals that again compliment the heavy end of the song, this section does well to bring in so many wildly different musical sounds in perfect harmony from borderline brutality to melancholic melody while still continuing a song that is essentially a love song. There are so many sections, like the above that bring an exceptional harmony of wildly different representations of musical genres that it would take too long to explain all of them, but rest assured this album is a guaranteed mix of metalcore and every influence that the band cares to cite.
If you want some good metalcore that easily slaughters their later endeavors musically, emotionally, and psychologically, this is a must have. From listening to this album after a few years hiatus from the metalcore scene in search of a more brutal and underground sound, Shadows Fall’s “Of One Blood” brings back a lot of memories, and those memories of such a solid metalcore release were in no way exaggerated by time, instead it seems that I have underestimated the impact that this album has had on my musical tastes. As there are so many in tune elements of this album that honor the roots of heavy metal as well as progress through the mythic ages of this genre of music, this is one of Shadows Fall’s finest hours.