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A forgotten masterpiece - 100%

CadenZ, May 9th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1996, CD, No Fashion Records

The highly touted Swedish death metal scene of the 1990’s produced some fantastic gems. The atmosphere was of the most creative and boundless kind, everyone was doing their shit full-on and enthusiasm filled the pungent air while everybody was on the hunt for the genre’s Holy Grail. From the acrid fumes rose one amazing band after the other, and there was much rejoicing from the fans: “Whey…” Too bad most of the fans consisted of members of the other bands in the scene, which means the scene did not have huge… tracts of land. Anyway, due to the recognition not being nation-wide for most bands their star of fame imploded like a supernova of feces in the general direction of everyone who missed out on their excellence. Decameron is one of those bands. They did one album, “My Shadow…”, and the quality it sports is enough to tear mighty flesh wounds into most band discographies’ asses and blow off their heads with unholy hand grenades. This record blew my mind like a porn star in the mid-90’s and has only become better over the years, like fine wine made out of elderberries. It’s actually so good you can get drunk by just listening to it. Drunk with euphoria. Now the time has come to dissect this only piece of testament the Decameron corpse left behind – time to open the grave and bring out your dead! Ok, ok, I’ll get on with it…

This album is organic. Everything on this disc sounds so natural it’s scary. Every single note and beat keep the energy driving forward and create just the right atmosphere. Cunningly arranged, mostly melodic yet malignant riffs intermingle with furious and inventive drumming, while passionate barks and shrieks spew out sulfur and despair. We’re talking top-notch melodic death/black with some 80’s metal influences, the same category as for example Dissection, Unanimated and Merciless. Still, Decameron’s fantastic music is something of their very own. Expertly crafted, but with a natural and organic passion that is just beautiful. Actually, that goes for all of the bands mentioned. Still, “My Shadow…” is a one of a kind album. Only minus for the intro track that serves its purpose as mood-builder, but the execution…the skip button is often engaged.

The production is very 1990’s. The mix is a little thin and raw, but it gives the music just the atmosphere it needs. Every instrument is clearly audible and well-balanced in the sound canvas, and with the music itself being so strong, there’s no need for any fancy pansy production effects. It would’ve been interesting to hear this album with more depth to the mix, though – when analyzing it closely it could be considered a bit one-dimensional. Not that I’ll complain about it, I love how it sounds. The snare sound isn’t maybe the most fantastic either, especially during fast parts. An acquired taste.

The focus and center-point of this album is the guitar work. Lots and lots of malicious riffs, with almost all being catchy as hell. The fundament lies in thrash and heavy metal riffs which have been twisted and blighted into hateful, diabolic monsters. Cool and mystic harmonies, asymmetric periods and time signatures, fantastic catchy guitar solos and ever-changing creative arrangements add flair and character, at the same time keeping one’s interest up in the rafters. You don’t wanna miss out on any of this stuff, as it’s all so good and you never know what small difference on some small detail or nuance is put in to tickle your mind and ears.

The vocal delivery is devoted, fervent and fierce. Passionate to the core. You can hear the emotion behind the rasp, and sometimes it breaks up into semi-clear groaning/crooning. The texture of the growls are maybe not the most consistent or powerful, but the pathos they reek of is so convincing that it doesn’t really matter. Some clean melodies, whispers and spoken parts also provide variation. Main vocalist Alexander Losbäck also handles the four-string, and there are a bunch of interesting but still supportive bass lines to be found here. Alex has a keen sense for when to alternate to a higher or lower register. Sometimes he follows the guitars, adding depth or even a harmony to the riffing, while at other times he wanders his own ways. A very varied bass performance for a record in this genre.

The most mindblowing performance is the one provided by Tobbe Kellgren. "My Shadow..." is one of my all-time favorite drumming records. Kellgren has amazingly varied and interesting chops. The fact that he improvised lots of the drumming on this recording is a huge part of why the whole album flows so naturally and has such an organic feel. Slow and doomy stuff, groovy mid-tempo parts, fast double kicks, blasting, you name it and everything sounds killer, and is punctuated with highly inventive fills thrown in a little here and there. Kellgren also likes to sometimes end his fills at unexpected spots, “too early” or “too late”, which adds to the intriguing quality of the arrangements. As said before, one of my favorite drumming records.

The lyrical output is to the point, evil and Christ-hating. Most of the lyrics tackle the subject of personal evolution and rising above everything, deifying oneself in and with darkness, knowledge, and hate. Not the most intricate pieces of text I’ve read but the ideas behind them are good and very well-suited to complement the music, and vice versa.

"My Shadow..." is one of my top five albums of all time. The sheer quality of the material is heightened tenfold with the imaginative arrangements and passionate execution. Rating this album at 110% is as much a no-brainer as Paris Hilton. Even the somewhat sucky intro can’t drop the score to 100%. Oh wait, it did. Fuck.

Very uneven album, but good anyway - 70%

dismember_marcin, April 25th, 2010

The times of releasing “My Shadow…” were one of the most important in my personal metal history. The post black metal wave from Scandinavia started slowly to fade away… although it was then – in 1996 – when it delivered some historic albums from such bands like EMPEROR, IMMORTAL, ENSLAVED, HADES, GEHENNA, LIMBONIC ART or SATYRICON - albums I've loved. They've been at the pick of their creativity and from then on this genre started to go down slowly and slowly, often into commercialism and self parody… Death metal from the other hand at that time unfortunately didn’t have much to offer. Occasional quality eruptions from the likes of CANNIBAL CORPSE, MORBID ANGEL, VADER, SINISTER, DISMEMBER or MONSTROSITY didn’t help seeing the genre dying. Where were the old cults like MORGOTH, UNLEASHED, GRAVE, GOREFEST, ENTOMBED, etc then? Most of them has either split up or changed their musical direction or delivered a shade of what used to be their best. Only few years later some bands like NILE and KRISIUN putted it back into the throne.

But let’s look at the Swedish scene of mid to late 90's. It – from the other hand – started to spawn dozens of new bands, which had a new thing in common – melody. AT THE GATES, IN FLAMES, DARK TRANQUILITY – from one side, and DISSECTION, CENTINEX and NECROPHOBIC on the other. Jon Nodtveidt’s band had an enormous influence on creating a new genre of satanic black / death metal. The followers appeared. I remember I was moaning on most of them at that time (and DECAMERON was one of the most unliked by me) and all because there were too many alike bands and I sometimes couldn't differ one from another. As for DECAMERON I just didn’t like their music so much then and together with ABLAZE MY SORROW they simply were one of the worst bands around in Sweden at that time - at least according to my opinion in 1996.

Weird things happen, time goes forward and years later “My Shadow…” gets another chance and is much more welcome listen. Sure, it’s not as furious and aggressive, not as devastating as an album from SACRAMENTUM, A CANOROUS QUINTET, CENTINEX and VINTERLAND, but it does have its own charm and character - I ahve to admit that now. Blending mentioned DISSECTION-esque melodic death / black metal with a surprisingly often present IRON MAIDEN-ism we get an album standing above many others. DECAMERON is close in finding a perfect balance between all these styles and their own original sound. Sure, some songs, like the awesome “Our Time Has Come” and “Satanized” (which was written in cooperation with Jon from DISSECTION) stand above the others as more aggressive and straight forward with almost thrashing chorus and riffage while “Le Roi Triste” is more melodic based, with some classic heavy metal instrumental passages and guitar soloing. But still also this song has found a room for some arse kicking fast playing.

Another standout song, “The Scar of Damnation”, is just great. It’s opening minute long riffage is excellent, having both thrashing riffs as well as some truly catchy melodic ones, then followed by quite melancholic parts. Finally its ending brings wonderful melodies and riffs and… some clean vocals, which give something extra really. It must be remembered that DECAMERON composes quite lengthy tracks; most of them are above the average 5-6 minutes, so they have plenty of time to show the amount of ideas they want. And that’s why the entire album, every song actually is so varied and exciting. “Sexual Immortality” brings some more angry and aggressive riffs, so does “Skabma”, which is quite thrash metal oriented, but still with black metal feeling, great vocals and almost epic feeling in some places. Again there are many rhythm changes, many riffs, harmonies, lots of things are happening within one track.

“My Shadow…” have some lower quality spoken vocals, which honestly I would erase if I had a chance. Basically it’s the least interesting song, with some irritating fragments like lenghty solos and real awful clean vocals. Unfortunately “Prophecy of Life to Come” doesn’t bring the highest quality back to the music as it also has some shitty clean vocals – luckily they're present only for few seconds – while the riffs aren’t as strong as those in the previous tracks. Finally the last song, “Mistress of Sacrifice” turns out to be quite shitty heavy metal track, whose clean vocals again don’t give the best impression and the overall melancholic feeling and ballad-esque beginning are just horrible. Yeah, this is the worst track on the album…

Uff, I have to say that "My Shadow" material is very uneven - it's an album, which I have to divide into two parts – first one gathers great songs and riffing, with some truly memorable anthems such as “Satanized” and “Scar of Damnation”, while the second half has lower quality riffs and unnecessary weak clean vocals and simply looses the feeling and aggression. Still though I consider DECAMERON as a good band, which had some potential, but unfortunately ceased to exist after this one album for some reasons.

Don't dismiss this one - 70%

Sacraphobic, September 18th, 2004

Bah, I'd like to be quite brief here. This wolf in sheep's clothing was always going to be ignored by most due to it being melodic death from Gothenburg, and I was no exception, thus I was surprised indeed to find that this is actually a fine release.

Decameron, formerly known as Nekrofobic (mmm...), clearly take influences from Swedish bands like Eucharist, At the Gates and Necrophobic, and while they're a bit more streamlined than any of those bands at their respective peaks, they're still a few notches above most from that scene. There's also an Arghoslent vibe in places.

Decameron are quite technical, they're rich in harmony and texture, there's quite a lot of rhythm-changes but it's mainly well-composed and purposeful. The melodies are folky in places, thrashy in others, occasionally on the cheesier Gothenburg side of things, but generally very good. Narrative in structure, the songs are mainly in between 5 and 8 minutes, and most conjure a sense of epic which the great majority of melo-death bands are entirely devoid of. Drumming is adequately technical but not too special, and the lyrics couldn't be any more typical. I've never been good at describing vocals, but these are in between Eucharist's growls and Lindberg's shrieks, methinks.

There are a few shitty parts; clean-vocalled passages that really wouldn't sound out of place on a Soilwork album, for example. There's also times when Decameron are so clearly copying Eucharist it's ridiculous to my ears. This is hardly a groundbreaking recording. It stands head-and-shoulders above the current crop of rubbish coming from melo-death, though, and is definitely worth purchasing.

Not bad, not special. - 78%

Egregius, August 13th, 2003

Decameron plays Swedish melodic deathmetal. That should tell you enough. It's not 100% gothenburg sound though.

Sure they borrow the typical guitarsound largely, and it certainly is guitardriven music. And the lyrics are about 'dark' subjects, with the vocals in that typical kind of death-vox. But it would almost seem they're just slightly on the edge of the gothenburg sound. Maybe it's the different mix/guitar sound. Maybe because the music has slightly more sense of direction.

On the other hand, what the music has in the illusion of technicality, is juxtaposed with certain elements of 'wankery', as in the alternation of high and low notes at near-unexpected moments, to make it seem technical (as it would appear to me).

This is a nice cd if you can find it cheap, and you like the idea of swedes going all out on their guitars, but all in all it really isn't all that special in an otherwise bloated scene. It's a band worthy of listening, but not a band that renews your faith in anything labeled 'melodic death metal'. It just rises very slightly above the genre.