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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.