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Solid slab of prog/power metal - 73%

lukretion, June 13th, 2022

A brainchild of guitarist Markus Sigfridsson (Darkwater; Harmony), All Things Fallen are releasing their second LP Shadow Way on June 3rd via their own label Blackoak Records. The band’s line-up is completed by Pain of Salvation’s drummer Léo Margarit, bassist Raphael Dafras (Edu Falaschi; Harmony) and singer Erik Tordsson (End of September). As you might have guessed already from the names in the line-up, All Things Fallen play a dark, melodic brand of progressive/power metal, not terribly different from Markus Sigfridsson’s main band Darkwater. Other useful signposts are bands like Evergrey, Kamelot and Pain of Salvation.

Melancholia and melody are undoubtedly the keywords here. But there is a lot of gutsy power too across the album’s 9 songs. This is probably one of the defining characteristics of Shadow Way that helps to elevate it above many other records dabbling in similar moods and sound. Guitarist Markus Sigfridsson does not hold back and uses a barrage of powerful, engaging riffs and leads that dominate the album’s sound. There’s some really interesting guitarwork on display here, intricate and inventive, yet very melodic, reminding me of bands like Conception and Ark. It’s a throwback to the early 2000s, when progressive/power metal was built around wonderful guitar acrobatics and a thankfully far cry from the contemporary rendition of the genre, where the spotlight is almost exclusively on cheesy vocal melodies and guitars most of the time chug away lazily in the background.

This is not to say that Shadow Way lacks in the vocal department. To the contrary, singer Erik Tordsson puts in an excellent performance, exploiting his considerable vocal range that allows him to reach the lows of the best Roy Khan as well as the highs of James LaBrie. His singing is not all technical bravura, though. It conveys plenty of emotional subtlety too, which gives depth and life to the songs. Experienced drummer Léo Margarit and bassist Raphael Dafras provide a powerful but refined rhythmic section, of which I appreciated the ability to hold back when the songs needed it, avoiding to fill the sound with walls of double-bass and incessant fills like many other bands in the genre sometimes do. The album also sports some interesting arrangements involving keyboards (played by Markus Sigfridsson) and violins on “Pandemonium” and “Path of Dismay” (played by guest musician Maria Grigoryeva).

Shadow Way starts mightily strong: its first 4/5 tracks are absolutely stunning. The two singles “The Sentinel” and “Pandemonium” are particularly engaging, the latter thanks to a catchy, singalong chorus that will be hard to put out of your mind. Unfortunately, there’s a noticeable dip in songwriting quality as we move to the album’s second half. Songs like “Narcissistic Ritual”, “Kiss of Death” and “Desert of the Real” sound a tad too generic and feel melodically uninspired. Most importantly, they lack the freshness and variety that one can find on the record’s first-half, making the later section of the album somewhat of a drag to go through.

Despite this unevenness across its two halves, Shadow Way remains a thoroughly enjoyable record to listen through. It may not be an album that pushes any significant musical boundaries, but it offers a well-played, well-produced slab of solid prog/power metal that is rare to find these days.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]