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Unrewarded glory - 84%

gasmask_colostomy, July 2nd, 2015

It seems fair to say in retrospect that Shadows Fall never had the best of luck. Back when they sounded like a melodic death metal band, they weren't in either the right place or playing at the right time to gain plaudits in that genre: the band were American, not European, so couldn't make the most of the receptive Scandinavian and German audiences, plus their earliest album was predated by the main melodeath movers by at least four or five years; then, when they moved over to metalcore at the beginning of the 00s, they were overshadowed by bands like Killswitch Engage, who get more credit for kickstarting the genre and have had continuing commercial success. All this sounds like Shadows Fall have lived constantly on the sidelines, yet they themselves achieved great commercial success with 'The War Within' and remain reasonably well-known today. However, I am of the opinion that they lost out in a big way and most of the loss comes at exactly the time of their second album 'Of One Blood'.

Listening to this album, the fact that this band had a whole slew of great ideas is shoved into your brain song by song, nor will you forget it by the end of the album. There are ideas to spare on the nine songs of this release and so much later music (we're talking maybe only months later in some cases) can be glimpsed in snippet form on songs like 'Fleshold' and 'Crushing Belial'. Chimaira, As I Lay Dying, God Forbid, Unearth, even some of the nu metal bands must have listened to this with excited ears, knowing that they could see a new direction that they were to pursue in the near future - it's unfair really. The reason why it is so unfair for Shadows Fall is that this album now sounds like a mash of all those later ideas, ripped out of different contexts and plagiarised to the extent of being overfamiliar and cliched. This album is to 00s mainstream metal what Hellhammer were to 80s extreme metal or what Michael Jackson's 'Thiller' is to pop and dance music of the following two decades. It's like the band provided everything, yet didn't work out what could be done with all the separate elements of their sound, only screw them together into sometimes messy, chaotic songs. 'Of One Blood' mixes together the existing sounds of melodeath, more conventional death metal, and rock-based vocal harmonies with the emerging disciplines of metalcore, deathcore, and modern metal (there's still not a name for this genre - think Lamb of God etc). This mixture is sometimes effective, challenging, and exciting, while sometimes it seems clunky, bizarre, or afflicted by attention deficit disorder.

The level of invention that goes on in a song like 'Root Bound Apollo' is absolutely frightening and shows all the instrumental players at the height of skill and daring. We can audibly hear the transformation of swift-footed melodeath riffs into slamming metalcore grooves with the mere introduction of a different type of palm-muting and downpicking or the emphasis of a hardcore-influenced drum beat. About 80 or 90% of the riffs are good and - for a guy with a slight aversion to pure metalcore - around half of them are really something worth hearing again and again. We do get some staccato parts with a chug and fill approach, but we also get plenty of hot-blooded charges and a few demonic extreme parts that really take me by surprise. The construction of these riffs into songs is incredibly tight and almost random: I can rarely predict the next movement of any given song, which gives the whole album a brilliant shot of adrenaline and excitement that cannot be effaced. 'To Ashes', for example, ends an acoustic segment with plaintive rock boyband vocals by spinning into a tremolo death metal riff in the vein of a despondent Amon Amarth. 'Of One Blood' really, really needs that excitement because the recording quality does threaten to derail the genre-busting course of the album. The instruments are all audible, but the jarring of one against the other, the many different levels of sound (the band don't so much play together as at the same time), and the dreadfully raw and ragged tone of the rhythm guitars and drums are potentially crippling to the songs. It robs the zip out of many of the bounding riffs, leaving them with a lot of bass and undistorted guitar drag at the low and high ends, though thankfully that cuts out when lead or acoustic guitars enter the mix, always making those high points.

Another little problem is the vocals, which, though clearly important to the development of the metalcore genre (and Shadows Fall really do pack every kind of metalcore vocal moment into this album), are sometimes sung in a lacklustre manner and recorded poorly, compounding the problem. I'm fairly sure that apart from Brian Fair's guttural and shouty voice, 'Of One Blood' also includes frequent additions in more melodic styles by David Germain and Matthew Bachand. These style switches are useful for the songs and are part of the continued development of melodic death metal, but the singers on this album aren't really great. The deep harsh vocals sound good, yet there is a common voice that sings in a gruff kind of hard rock manner that is weak and doesn't go well with the musical style. Then there's the cleans, which are a little too clean and choir boy for me, though occasionally those voices blend to great effect and create surprisingly poignant harmonies, especially during acoustic moments.

There are no very weak songs, and I get the feeling that the creativity increases towards the end of the album, with the last five songs being more complex and exciting than the first half. Sometimes the ceaseless changes become confusing, as on a song like 'To Ashes', which changes between metal and acoustic, melodeath and metalcore, and verse, chorus, and solo so much that it's practically bewildering, even if great in parts. 'Of One Blood' is a highly recommended album that comes with a warning - expect to work for your rewards.

Shadows Fall's Best Full Length - 93%

RideForVengeance, July 3rd, 2014

Back in 1995, a 14 year old and a 17 year old got together and decided to start jamming out. 5 years later, this happened. Previously, they had released 1 demo, 1 EP, and 1 full length. Shadows Fall was a melodic death/thrash band up until this point. This album takes a different step than previously heard on their first release, the monster Somber Eyes to the Sky. Shortly after the album was released, Phil Labonte (All That Remains) was asked to leave the band, and in came Brian Fair. That is for the most part the biggest noticeable change on the album. Brian Fair has many vocal capabilities that Phil doesn't have, to be frank.

The album begins with an instrumental which is similar to the Slaughter of the Soul intro in that it is a short, 45 second swaying sound, that breaks into distorted electric guitars in Crushing Belial. One of the things that stands out the most in this album, is that all the songs are different, and yet they all seem to flow perfectly into each other. This album has a bit of everything, from true thrash metal (To Ashes) to melodic metalcore (The First Noble Truth) to extreme death metal (Revel in My Loss). 3 Of the songs are re-recorded from Somber Eyes to the Sky, these are Fleshold, Revel in My Loss, and To Ashes. These songs differ in part from the rest of the album because they are heavier than most of the other songs on the album. They also feel different, but they definitely aren't misplaced, as they flow very well with the rest of the album. Personally, my favorite songs on this album are Of One Blood, Root Bound Apollo, and Serenity.

Many of the songs on this album have fantastic leads in the solos, which are much more developed and better mapped out than in other albums. In Crushing Belial, the solo plays a nice, growing lead over acoustic guitars. Of One Blood has the longest and most complicated solo on the album. Revel in my Loss has a short 20 second solo at the end, which differs from the original version of the song. To Ashes has two solos, one of them is an acoustic solo, and the other a dual-lead solo. Serenity and Montauk have classic thrash/death metal solos. However, I must say my favorite on the album is by far in Root Bound Apollo. It is very reminiscent of a Metallica guitar solo, searingly fast, complicated hammer-ons and pull-offs, and tapping.

Overall, this album should please most metalheads, whether they like the Big 4, modern metalcore, or even extreme death metal. The clean singing of the majority of the choruses (with the exception of Revel in My Loss) brings a touch of sanity to the majority of the album, the hardcore shouts dominating the vocal section make this a much more accessible album than the monstrous Somber Eyes to the Sky. However, this is a much more death metal influenced album than a lot of their later music, which would make this much a less accessible album than a later release such as The War Within or Retribution. I would also recommend buying the 2008 re-issue, the difference between it and the original is literally night and day.

One thing from this album that differs from later albums is the absence of Jason Bittner. At the time, David Germain was the drummer for the band, and while Jason Bittner is an amazing drummer, I do prefer the drumming of David Germain a lot more. Unlike Jason Bittner, he doesn't abuse the double kick bass drum, and is much more technical than Bittner who I find is over-reliant on the double kick. This isn't saying that Germain doesn't use double kick, he just uses it when it is necessary and is even faster than Bittner at double kick. Another big difference is Brian Fairs vocals, instead of his signature scream, he does a growl more similar to Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe's death growl. Not all the vocals are done by Fair, however, as Shadows Fall from the earliest beginnings used its signature three-way vocalist method, which is exemplified on songs such as Of One Blood, and Revel in My Loss. In all the re-records, Phil Labonte's vocals are also used at point in the song. Go check this album out, I highly recommend it to any fan of heavy metal.

Best Album Since 2000 - 99%

bronxlord, November 21st, 2009

Despite what people may feel about the modern metal movement of the last 10 years, there is no denying that three records shaped metal of today:

1. Killswitch Engage- Alive or Just Breathing
2. Lamb of God- As the Palaces Burn
3. And most importantly...Shadows Fall- Of One Blood

Whatever these bands have done since is irrelevant. These are the Kill 'Em All, Bonded By Blood and Hell Awaits of the 21st Century. This is an amazing metal album through and through. It reinstilled my hope in metal after its demise from 1994-1999. Quite simply, when this album came out in 2000, it was such a wonderful amalgam of music that I knew metal was going to be okay. Though the concept seems old now, one minute you heard At the Gates and Emperor, then Testament and Exodus, then Hatebreed and Snapcase, then Journey and Trixter. But the key was that it worked almost seamlessly.

The album opens with Crushing Belial, which is simply musical acrobatics times 10. A wonderful death/thrash blend with black metal and REAL breakdowns. The title track essentially lays out what Shadows Fall is and what is to come. Inviting rock elements into high speed thrash. Fleshold is them at their most hardcore, and always a crowd pleaser. To Ashes is a wonderful epic that has so many layers and various acoustic passages & dual harmony guitars. Serenity is a nice thrasher, with one of those classic intro riffs.

The only downsides are the mix, which was cleaned up with the remix, so I highly advise getting that version. Much crisper and more cohesive. Also, Montauk is not one of their best performances.

Wash away the last 9 years of metal to appreciate where this boom really began. Yes oversaturation has watered down the "genre", but it happens in all music. Amazing guitar work, versatile vocal performances, and an energy that influenced a movement.

The Nostalgia of Metalcore - 90%

Five_Nails, August 11th, 2009

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.

Awful, AWFUL production - 62%

Noktorn, September 12th, 2008

This has some amazingly bad production for a Century Media release; I have the original version of this album and I can totally understand why a remastered version was released this year, because this album badly needs it. It's remarkably static and undynamic; all mids without any real high or low presence, and it feels like the hard left and right portions of the mix were just our for some reason, making for a very uneven listen. Most of all though, the dynamic range seems incredibly compressed, as if the CD was printed off 128 kbps MP3s. I don't even understand how this sound could be achieved without that exact process, it's very bad and I'm amazed that Century Media was willing to release the album with production like this.

Getting past that (though it's surprisingly hard to in actuality), the music is okay. It's very poppy thrash/metalcore with a bit of melodic death influence, as you'd expect from US metalcore. It's not the perfectly formed pop metal that they crafted on 'The War Within', but it's listenable enough and crafted by hands with clear potential. The song structures still seem rather green at this stage in the band's career, with a lot of questionable design decisions popping up from time to time as though the band was deliberately trying to avoid taking the easy, catchy way out. It's an admirable attempt but the fact is that Shadows Fall is a band better suited at making very simple, poppy music and any attempt to deviate from that formula doesn't work very well. The only thing that really trips this album up (apart from the production, obviously) is the band not fully giving in to their poppy tendencies.

Apart from awkward song structures, this is probably some of the most elegantly combined thrash and metalcore I've ever heard, probably because the latter is mostly kept separate from or used as a slight tinge to the thrash. Many of the thrashy riffs are surprisingly well composed, with a combination of modern and slightly bay area feel that keeps you guessing. The metalcore is all right, but the melodeath additions seem rather cheesy much of the time; random harmonized solos with overly plucky, Dark Tranquillity-style bass will pop up for no real reason except to add, well, melodic death to the mix because US metalcore fans expect to hear at least a little Iron Maiden in everything I guess. Those elements really add nothing to the music and could be extracted easily for a better listening experience.

This is a decent album though not one I have any particular desire to listen to. Shadows Fall got exponentially better a couple albums from here so I can't find much of a reason to listen to this one. It's not awful but it does have enough noticeable flaws which keep it from a recommendation in my book. Of course the very idea of metalcore is enough to send many people running away screaming, but I guess this is one of the less coreish metalcore releases that I've heard, so for those looking to play an open-minded card, this is a decent enough one to get.

Modern metal masterpiece - 98%

o2w4e, April 13th, 2007

Shadows Fall’s album “Of One Blood” starts out with the track called ‘Pain Glass Vision,’ which sounds like the bowels of Hell or at least something just as demonic and ominous. It then moves into ‘Crushing Belial’ with a bang that continues through the entire album and only lets up enough for their haunting and alluring clean passages.

The guitars endlessly pummel your senses throughout this masterpiece of a disc. The merciless crunching rhythms and interweaving melodies pull an all-out assault on your ear drums until dragging you into a state of bliss with a beautiful clean passage then crashing through with more bludgeoning thrash riffs. Matt Bachand and Jon Donais team up to make one of the greatest metal guitar albums. They come together with some excellent dual harmonies then go their separate ways with Bachand beating you down with heavy often muted rhythms and Donais burning through his brilliant leads. The duos best guitar moment on this album, while difficult to choose, may be the solo section of the title track ‘Of One Blood.’ It begins with a dual harmonized lead then Donais takes off on a glorious solo all the while Bachand is riffing away. Then there’s tracks such as ‘The First Noble Truth’ where the chorus riff sounds almost punk while the leads take us on a journey of hope and ambition. “Fleshold” and “Revel in My Loss” use brutal start-stop main riffs to beat the listener down, while the chorus picks them back up, only to knock them back off their feat with another bruising riff. Donais’ soloing is magnificent, bringing to mind Kirk Hammett’s work from Metallica’s classics. In other areas, the guitarists are playing pure melodic death metal a la classic In Flames and At the Gates. Add some Testament-like clean sections and you have one of the most outstanding guitar performances ever on a metal record.

The vocals on this record are varied to say the least. Lead vocalist Brian Fair, and guitarists Donais and Bachand all contribute very distinctive styles on this album. Donais is in charge of the lower death metal growls, while Bachand handles the sparingly used clean singing on the disc. Brian Fair feels in the rest with his raspy clean vocals, his almost shouted chants and his unique brand of death metal growling. The band, as has become a trademark, is very good at mixing the vocals. Bachand sings a couple of solo sections during the clean parts of tracks ‘Crushing Belial’ and ‘To Ashes’ as well as a the chorus on another track. Brian Fair and Jonathan Donais combine on many phrases, with Fair doing the majority and Donais either starting or ending the line such as the pre-chorus section of ‘Montauk.’ Fair tends to go with his raspy clean vocals and growls most often. The best vocal performance on the album on the track ‘To Ashes,’ which features Fair’s best growling and singing as well as singing by Bachand including a heart wrenching clean section.

The drums on this album are played by David Germain. He performs solidly, however not nearly as well as the bands current drummer, Jason Bittner. The drumming is not great but not bad either. It’s definitely the low point of the album. You’ll find pretty good double bass drumming and everything else you’d expect from a metal album here. It’s not spectacular, but still very solid.

With “Of One Blood,” Shadows Fall has crafted a modern metal masterpiece. The raw, edgy guitar work of Donais’ and Bachand is the best feature of the album and makes them instant guitar gods. Bachand’s harsh riffing and Donais’ shredding will be enjoyed by metal heads for years to come. Brian Fair’s debut album with the band was a successful one for him. His vocals help provide them with a sound and variety of styles that are uniquely theirs. “Of One Blood” was Shadows Fall’s break into the “New Wave of American Heavy Metal” scene that is still going strong today with Shadows Fall as leaders of the pack.