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Fresher and a bit fiercer. - 83%

hells_unicorn, April 28th, 2012

Since becoming a bit better acquainted with Echoes Of Eternity, I’ve come to see them not so much as an American answer to the booming female fronted gothic metal scene of The Netherlands (though they are American), but more of an actual adherent to the scene living abroad. The riffs and just the overall feel of everything sounds like a literal what if story where Mark Jansen decided to create another project and simply strip away all the symphonic and harsh vocal elements that make early After Forever and Epica slightly more than a gallop happy thrash metal band with the lone accident of a consonant female vocal impresario at the helm. But with the release of their sophomore effort “As Shadows Burn”, some distance has been put between what was a highly derivative niche in favor of something slightly more unique.

Stylistically this isn’t too far removed from the blend of angelic gothic melodies and violently thrashing rhythmic backdrops that dominated “The Forgotten Goddess”, but some more things have been added and a greater sense of focus has been given to the elements that have been maintained from before. A thicker, punchier guitar tone resides amongst a sea of rapid fire riffing that surpasses the largely derivative Jon Schaeffer gallops of before and occasionally adventures into melodeath territory. Blast beats, machine gun drumming and Immortal-like tremolo melodies are also more of a common occurrence, particularly during the early part of the 2nd half of the album on such frosty blazers as “Twilight Fires” and “Buried Beneath A Thousand Dreams”, almost as if Abbath himself had offered some songwriting input into this album.

On the whole, the feel of this album is a bit more agitated and forceful, though also a good bit more progressive and eclectic in its usage of ideas. The acoustic elements that were frequent on the debut are all but absent here, and in their place is an even more uniform, yet more effective collection of songs that betray a solid sense of consistency. One wouldn’t be too far off in calling this approach a branch of extreme metal, though the vocal work is a bit counterintuitive as it brings into the mix a smooth, crooning character that at its most climactic doesn’t even come close to sounding harsh. Francine Boucher doesn’t quite possess the distinctive charm of Cristina Scabbia or the overwhelming power of Simone Simmons, but her voice provides a nice flavor of familiarity and stability amid what is a very chaotic instrumental assault, and is also thankfully free of the over-processed sound that sort of hamstringed the last album.

While the chief target audience of this band may be the same one that Mark Jansen has been cultivating for more than a decade, there’s a strong case to be made that “As Shadows Burn” could appeal to a number of fans of modern melodeath and the modernized, melodic thrash character of recent offerings out of Death Angel and Kreator. It’s all a matter of how important the vocals are to those who normally like their melodies countered with a percussive, semi-intelligible scream, as what is heard on here vocally is anything but that. It’s technical and fairly progressive, so shred fans who normally eat up Malmsteen’s outputs may find a bit to like here as well. This isn’t just a mere hipster trap with a pretty face at the fore, but a very musically credible and polished machine that shouldn’t be ignored.