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Hollow production overshadows potential. - 45%

Diamhea, January 30th, 2014

There is a decent album hiding somewhere in The Art of Balance, but no matter how earnest the effort, a sizable portion of it's promise is gutted due to the dreadful production values. Viewing this approach from the band's perspective, the compressed, crunchy sonic aesthetics might be a nod to the "hard rock" portion of the genre-balancing act as per the album's title. It falls flat all the same, as some of the heavier, grooving riffing patterns suffer mightily under the weight of the poor production, neutralizing The Art of Balance's melodic death disposition and testing the listener's patience in more ways than one.

Shadows Fall get a decent groove going during "Stepping Outside the Circle" and "Mystery of One Spirit", but even compact, potent compositions such as these can barely keep their heads above water when the guitars are this gutted. It sounds like the band recorded the rhythm tracks using 30-watt practice amps. The pinch harmonics also sound thin, wafting, and irritating. Even so, "Mystery of One Spirit" opens with a catchy, animated main riff and features a neck-jerking gallop, making this one a keeper, at the very least. I am also quite partial to the title track, which is more emotional and stirring. Fair's clean vocals sound really good on that one, although his approach has the tendency to devolve into atonal half-shouting that clashes with the melodic side of the material here. I've also heard Bittner lauded as some sort of drum-genius, but he certainly makes no case for that title here.

The second half of The Art of Balance seals it's fate as a true disappointment. "The Idiot Box" features a heavier inclination to its riffs, but a dearth of melody seriously damages it's staying power. "A Fire in Babylon" is the obvious attempt at an "epic" number, being over seven minutes long and featuring an instrumental precursor in "Prelude to Disaster". The band really builds this one up as being something to remember, but most if it blends in with the rest of the material here. Some of the vocal lines are more experimental and the there is a decent half-thrash passage near the end, but nothing even bordering on the quality present in the title track or "Mystery of One Spirit". The Pink Floyd cover is also a waste of time and comes off as a really forced attempt at paying homage to the classic rock aesthetics The Art of Balance supposedly draws inspiration from. I certainly don't hear them.

It has it's moments, but I can't help but feel that one of the biggest issues with The Art of Balance is deep-rooted and revolves around the forced attempt at melding the disparate styles together. Seek out "Mystery of One Spirit" and the title track. Get The War Within instead, which comes off as less pretentious and meandering on the whole.

Great songs, abysmal production - 60%

mot_the_barber, May 19th, 2009

The members of Shadows Fall maintain that the title of this album is a reference to their desire to balance elements of rock, hardcore, and metal in their music, and on this album in particular. In terms of songwriting, at least, they're far more successful at it here than on any of their other albums. In my opinion their first two albums sound like they're still trying to figure out their sound, and don't display such consistent songwriting ability. Their albums after this one (especially their most recent) swing too far in the direction of groovy neo-thrash to pack much of a punch.

But on this album they really do find a good balance between catchy rock, hardcore breakdowns, and thrash riffing. "Idle Hands" and "Mystery of One Spirit" both open with killer riffs, a knack that Shadows Fall carried over from their more melodeath days. They also do slower, grinding numbers quite well, as evidenced by "Destroyer of Senses" and "The Idiot Box." The breakdowns here are a highlight, as they are always well-placed, never unnecessary, and never go on too long. In particular, the breakdown at the end of "Stepping Outside the Circle" has an aggressive catchiness that few other melodic metalcore bands have. They're even able to do epic thrash ride-outs, as in the final few minutes of "A Fire In Babylon."


This album has some of the worst production I've ever heard. The sound has no punch at all, and it robs the music of most of its vitality. Things that should sound huge and powerful (and do, live) come across as banal and pointless because the sound is so bad. The guitars have no dynamics at all. It sounds like the guitarists recorded the album with little 15-inch amps they bought at Wal-Mart. There's a little "crunch" to the sound but no depth to speak of, and the highs all sound small and squealy. The bass is audible, at least, but it doesn't provide any more bite than the guitar does. The drums are mixed just about right, but because everything else is mixed wrong, they sound too loud. Jason Bittner is an excellent drummer but I can understand why everyone thinks Shadows Fall is just about drum wankery.

It seems to me like this album should be a prime candidate to be included in this re-recording trend that's popped up of late. The difference is that this one actually stands to benefit from the act.

Tragically boring. - 45%

Noktorn, April 27th, 2009

This is easily the gentlest and cuddliest album in Shadows Fall's already not particularly rough discography. Even moreso than Killswitch Engage, this often sounds like alternative rock spiced up with occasional double bass and melodeath-style twin solos. While this is titled 'The Art Of Balance', ostensibly referring to the band mixing elements of rock, metal, and hardcore, this is distinctly unbalanced in favor of the first of those three, with even the most aggressive portions of this album seeming like something for those who think Michael Bolton is just a little too heavy.

As you can expect, this is some tragically boring music; it's not really offensive but I can hardly think of a reason to listen to it. Unlike the previous album, 'Of One Blood', which had some nice riffs and occasionally catchy tracks, or the next, 'The War Within', which showed the band fully becoming the pop group with double bass they always wanted to be, this is caught hopelessly in the middle of the road between a million different musical ideas, none of which go anywhere. The essential form of the music remains the same as the last album (though mostly devoid of the thrash influence): melodic metalcore heavy on both hardcore and rock music with occasional melodeath influences, but here it seems that the band was trying to do something remotely ambitious and as a result ended up just throwing up their hands and cranking out some really boring tracks to pad out the running time.

This is a singularly unmemorable release because it can't commit fully enough in any direction to be even remotely interesting. An overarching sense of rock song structures has random interjections of metal and hardcore inserted into it, but instead of embracing and synthesizing these elements into each other like would be seen on 'The War Within', Shadows Fall keeps everything separated by wrought-iron fences, preventing any cohesion from forming between the musical ideas. Pseudo-melodeath riffs are thrown against rock drum beats and hardcore vocals, and while the combination ends up being not altogether unlistenable, it's distinctly pointless and bland.

On the other hand, the production is a massive step up from the unbelievably atrocious, murky mix of 'Of One Blood', and the song structures are a little bit more logical even if the genre-bending becomes frustrating at times. At the same time, though, the playing seems slow and occasionally clumsy, and despite the inherent listenability of all the music, none of it ends up going anywhere of worth: the album's content to repeat the same tiny set of musical ideas verbatim over and over again, perhaps in some hope that repetition will breed enjoyment. As you would expect, it's not the case: it just serves to make an already unexciting album even more boring.

The next Shadows Fall album would end up being considerably better and probably the best work the band's ever done, so you can ignore this album and pick up 'The War Within' instead if you badly need a dose of poppy metalcore. This isn't terrible, but it's metal for your mom.

Quality Knows No "Wave" - 99%

ShadowsFallen, February 27th, 2007

Ah, so here I am finally, about to review a Shadows Fall album. I'm sure that many can tell by my name that I'm no stranger to the band, but take that as you wish.

The Art of Balance, Shadows Fall's third album, solidifies their previously promising if a bit scattered sound. Somber Eyes to the Sky and Of One Blood both featured some great guitar work by Bachand and Donais, who display a great flair for harmonizing with each other and throwing down some crushing riffery. It was this guitar work that really built the band's sound. Acoustic passages littered both albums with some very serene soundscapes to release the extreme intensity created by each full-blown metal song. Their riffs at the time were primarily melodic, almost Swedish-sounding melodies with tinges of the speed and rhythmic thrusts of American thrash metal. Jon Donais threw himself out there fairly quickly with a no-holds-barred style of soloing, which added a sweet element of technical prowess to the already commanding riffs.

Enter Art of Balance, their crowning achievement as of yet. The band really took their sound to new heights with this album. The production was perfectly clear without sounding over produced. Jason Bittner, the new arrival as drummer, lays down some awesome thrash drumming throughout without sounding the least bit sloppy. Brian Fair's voice really took shape, whether for better or for worse, and became a consistent, distinctive trait of the Shadows Fall sound. But once again, the guitar playing really stole the show. In songs like Thoughts Without Words, Idle Hands, and Stepping Outside the Circle Donais and Bachand pulled out some fast, technical riffs with enough thrashy brutality to make their Floridian forefathers turn their heads.

However, to intertwine with the newfound thrashy goodness that comprises the non-stop speedfest of The Art of Balance, the band never lost touch with the melodies that provided the interesting contrast between styles. The title track along side Mystery of One Spirit, a semi-power metal epic, provide some more musically memorable moments without sounding disjojnted. The technicality of the instruments was taken to a whole new high as Donais shreds some of the most unrelentingly intense solos this side of the world. A Fire in Babylon, an incredibly epic production, really creates the image of a world collapsing with its moving melodic riffs and emotionally charged solos. And fear not, the complimentary Pink Floyd cover at the end is a rather nice, somber closing to the album.

Shadows Fall is a band that can easily be caught up in a heated debate on genres, which is a shame, as such a conflict tends to detract from the music in the longrun. They may be referred to as the "new wave" of American metal but there's nothing vaguely trendy about their sound. Least of all metalcore, which they are seemingly often grouped with. Once again, I'm sure my name portrays this review in a somewhat qustionable light, but just remember. I don't speak highly of the album because I'm a Shadows Fall fan. I'm a Shadows Fall fan because I think the album deserves such praise.

Balance as a keyword for quality - 95%

Agonymph, April 25th, 2005

To be honest with all of you, the state of the Metal scene the last couple of years has concerned me. It's still the old folks who keep up the good name of the scene by bringing out quality albums, but those people don't have eternal life (as much as some of those want you to believe they have). And the bigger new bands usually release stuff that's been saturated with overdone grooves, annoying samples, senseless vocals and lyrics and a complete lack of what made Metal so great in the eighties; twin guitars, guitar solos and most of all good songwriting.

Just when I was most frustrated about this development in the Metal scene, I got confronted with a band called Shadows Fall. This band takes all those great elements of "good old" Heavy Metal and mixes it with elements from Hardcore/Metalcore and Swedish melodic Death Metal to create a form of old fashioned Metal which can perfectly stand the test of time and survive in the 21st century.

What's so special about this band then? Well, first of all, Shadows Fall is one of the few "younger" bands that knows how to write good songs instead of just make noise to portray some kind of anger. Matthew Bachand and Jonathan Donais might just be the scene's new guitar heroes and the with huge dreadlocks decorated Brian Fair is a charismatic frontman who should appeal to the older audience as well as to the "kids".

'The Art Of Balance' is Shadows Fall's third full length album and if you ask me, it's their best product thus far. I can't imagine many bands topping this release in terms of musicality, variation and performance. When the album kicked off in style with the explosive 'Idle Hands', I just new I had a great product in my CD player. The following track 'Thoughts Without Words' is Shadows Fall in optima forma; powerful riffs, a catchy chorus, great guitar solos and vocals used in any possible way (Bachand's deep grunts, Fair's hardcore vocals, Donais' dirtier grunts, multivocal clean parts in the chorus), this is why Shadows Fall is such a great band and maybe even the only hope in these scary days for Heavy Metal.

The album carries on showing some heavily Swedish Metal inspired moments ('Mystery Of One Spirit', 'The Idiot Box'), a grooving, yet kick ass track ('Destroyer Of Senses'), a couple of beautiful acoustic interludes ('Casting Shade', 'Prelude To Disaster') and one of today's Metal anthems, which shows practically every side of the band ('Stepping Outside The Circle'). Highlight of the album comes near the end of the album in the form of 'A Fire In Babylon', an awesome epic track with some of the most killer riffs I have ever heard, along a couple of beautiful solos and the whole thing is just constructed beautifully. Words can not describe the beauty I found in this song, which slightly reminds me of Chuck Schuldiner's Death in its more epic moments.

Closing off with a nice rendition of the Pink Floyd song 'Welcome To The Machine', this album just has something for every type of Metal fan. Headbangers, moshers, silent listeners...everyone who is tolerant enough should find something in this album to like. There will always be some conservative listeners who think this album is too modern or too well produced or whatever, but if it wasn't for bands like Shadows Fall, old fashioned Metal might have just died a silent death.

Am i the only one who dislikes this release? - 10%

Shadow0fDeath, August 25th, 2004

A while back i heard the hype for this new Shadows Fall release, things like "Possibly the years best metal band", "Thrash Revival". After finally getting the release i have to say i was extremely dissapointed with it myself. This band is no thrash revival. It's just another boring metalcore album that people believe is actually metal. There isn't much metal about it. While the vocalist, Brian Fair, screams Jonathan Bonais and Matthew Bachand play a few boring and repetitive riffs for the entirety of this release.

Idle Hands, the first track off the album has got to be one of the worst tracks i've ever heard. It's basically the same thing over and over again. Not thrash, just a lame semi-technical repetitive riff over and over with the same boring screams. By the way about these screams. Who enjoys these screams? They're dull, and lack any variation of pitch, power, emotion, and musical effect. Anyone can shout. Hey i know, let's all make a metalcore band, shout, have breakdowns, sell a million records while sitting on our asses being promoted as a thrash revival.

Destroyer of senses is a fairly decent track, pretty heavier and a nice song to headbang to, but too short. How predictable. They cut down the short stuff for idiotic hardcore groove crap that's defined as new thrash.

The rest of the songs on the album are repetitive, uninspired, generic filler that all sounds EXACTLY THE FUCKING SAME! I don't know what the band is thinking. Their previous effort, Of one blood, was decent, but Shadows Fall went from decent to extremely poor with these release. It's no thrash revival as advertised. Just a bunch of mindless metalcore drivel. I don't see any interest in owning this release. It's the most boring uninspired generic repetitive album i've ever heard!

Hard rock for Metal fans - 85%

PoSiTiVePeTeR, June 21st, 2004

First off, let me say that this is a fairly good album. But it isnt exactly HEAVY metal. In their biography on their website, this album is described as "heavy metal for rock fans, rock for heavy metal fans." This is a pretty accurate statement in my opinion. I wont go through every song, just the ones that stand out.

It starts off with "Idle Hands". A good opener, with some catchy riffs in between. I think this song could have been stronger, being the opener, but still good none the less.

"Thoughts Without Words" is an excellent song, probably my favorite on the album. The guitar work in this song is kickass and damn near perfect. Its very melodic with the best guitar solo on the album. Jon Donais is one hell of a guitar player. Jason Bittner's double bass kick blazes and adds a good effect to the verses.This,as mentioned before, is probably Brian Fair's best vocal performance on hear, especially in the chorus.

The next song worth mentioning is the title track, "The Art Of Balance". It opens up with a guitar solo, then begins with a light, clean guitar verse. Brian Fair sings through this song, not a bad voice, but nothing special. All in all Id say this is a pretty good song.

Another song that stands out is "A Fire in Babylon". This is an epic that actually starts off in "Prelude to Disaster". Its a good song, but in my opinion, it gets quite boring after a few listens through, and its not exactly short, 7 minutes or so.

The last song on here is the Pink Floyd cover, "Welcome to the Machine". Its incredibly slow with a nice melody of singing in the chorus. There is actually a little synth in here, which adds for a good effect. It has a very short but fast solo near the end. A good closer for a decent album.

Now, for the bad parts of the album.

One is Brian Fair's attempt to do a death metal voice. It just doesnt work. Im not exactly sure whats wrong with it, it kind of sounds like hes joking when he does it. Fortanatley, he doesnt do it too often.

My least favorite song on here is "Mystery of One Spirit". Its too boring and sounds like they didnt put much effort into it. And Brian does the death metal voice a bit too much in it.

Overall, this is a Good album, excellent guitar work and vocals(with the one exception).

Overrated and inconsistent - 60%

Sierra_Nevada, March 7th, 2004

This CD is inconsistent, if nothing else. Shadows Fall can thrash, but apparently not all the time. They'll be ripping right along with some killer thrash riff, then shift gears and do some godawful melodic fill or clean vocals crap that makes one wonder "where did the metal go?" A fine example of this takes place at approximately the 0:45 mark on Idle Hands. This happens numerous times throughout the CD. Highly annoying.

And sometimes, when he is trying to sing melodically, I think the singer descends from good into major Jonathan Davis-like vocal suckage (example of this at 1:42 in Destroyer of Senses). If he stuck to the screaming and bellowing, I would not be talking about him.

And that little acoustic bit, "Casting Shade." I really do like it, but why couldn't it be taken further into some kind awesome Halfold "Silent Screams"-style ballad? It just doesn't seem to go anywhere, as it is. And damnit, I want to know why it was put there, right in between two ass-ripping songs. Mood-killer, in my opinion. It would have been better if it was an album-closing track, kind of like Disturbed did with"Darkness" on their last CD.

But there is good to be said about this album too. There is plenty of headbangage to be found, as well as numerous good riffs, and the guitarists are pretty good at tearing it up in their solos. Some of the songs are pretty catchy - however, like I said earlier, it is quite annoying to be headbanging along at one hundred miles per hour and then run up against a sappy melodic fill that kills the mood entirely.

So, overall, I think this album is just merely ok, and somewhat overrated.

The Second Coming Of Metallica? Hell Yea! - 99%

ihateyou, December 5th, 2003

The Art Of Balance is simply put one of the best albums I've ever heard. Everything about it is great. The best part about this album is the solos, man can Donais play.

Idle Hands - This song is one of the heaviest on the album. It has alot of death riffs and double bass. This song focuses mainly on being heavy. The solo is something that you would expect to find on a megadeth album. Very kick ass. 8/10

Thouhgts Without Words - Another heavy as hell song. This one has more thrash riffs and harmonized solos though. The chorus is almost sing along and is very memorable. There is also a good amount of shredding here, which is always good. The breakdown at the end kicks ass. 9/10

Destroyer Of Senses - Faster than the first two, and as a result more thrashy. It's simplistic in nature but doesn't really lose anything. There is a gut wrenching scream during the slow part. The only thing about this song is that it's a little repetitive. Probably the weakest song on here, and that says a lot. 6/10

Chasting Shade - An acoustic instrumental. It's very melodic and almost beautiful. A nice contrast to the sheer aggression of the first three songs. 7/10

Stepping Outside The Circle - Thrash, thrash, and more thrash. This is where the album starts to get amazing. So many riffs. There are alot of time changes too. Hell it even uses gang vocals. There is a really nice clean part too. Donais does some really nice soloing too. One of the best songs on this album. 10/10

The Art Of Balance - An epic ballad type song. Think a thrashier Cemetary Gates. This is where Brian Fair really shows his clean vocals. It's very emotional. It gets heavier and the riffs come out and so do Fair's brutal vocals. Then a clean part comes in only to then lead you into a great solo. A rare song for Shadows Fall, but just as good as the rest. 9/10

Mystery Of The Spirit - Another thrashy song. There is a lot of emphasis on the lead guitar in this song. There is even some black metalish vocals here, and not annoying Cradle Of Filth stuff. The lyrics in this song are really cool too. The epic power metal solo kicks ass too. 9/10

The Idiot Box - A heavy thrash song. The riffs are heavy as hell. The lyrics are angry in a political way, it's always good to hear someone pissed for a reason. The drumming is the highlight of this song. It ends with a cool breakdown. 9/10

Prelude To Disaster - The title says it all. It's another acoustic instrumental and it sets you up perfectly for what comes next. 7/10

A Fire In Babylon - Holy shit! The pinch harmonics in the beginning are crazy. This song is so epic, it's Shadows Fall's Master Of Puppets. There are clean, death, blackish, and shouted vocals and they all fit perfectly. There is so much complex shit going on here and it all fits. Even the bass is doing a counter melody at some points. When Fair says "A fire burns in Babylon!" it's pure greatness. The soloing is heavy at parts and melodic at others. It's an amazing power/thrash song. The best on the album. 10/10

Welcome To The Machine - A cover of Pink Floyd, that takes balls. Pink Floyd wrote some of the most complex songs ever. Donais and Bachand do a very good job of playing the original guitar part with a heavy part that goes with it. They even use a synth in this song. Shadows Fall using a synth who could have guessed that. The vocals are almost completly clean and use some harmonies. An excellent cover. 8.5/10

Overall this is a geat fucking album. The only reason it doesn't get 100 is that Master Of Puppets beats it. Everyone should own this.

Can You Say "Filler" Boys and Girls - 70%

PowerProg_Adam, April 29th, 2003

Shadows Fall is an extremely talented band, but they just seem to be running out of ideas for songs. The majority of these sound alike. They get such a good rating because the three tracks that do sound different are absolutely phenomenal! Eleven tracks doesn't sound bad on paper, but two are acoustic instrumentals(which sound remarkably similar) and one is a cover of a Pink Floyd song. The guitar work on virtually every song is superb, but I can't get past the fact that all but about 3 songs are sung almost exactly the same way. Three good songs does not make an album great in my opinion.

They open up with a very thrashy track, Idle Hands. This is one of the few tracks that I like throughout the entire song. Just makes me want to headbang for three and a half minutes.

Thoughts Without Words is probably the bands best track from any album. This song is an absolute masterpiece! The solo to this song is absolutely mind-blowing! Its also probably Brian Fair's best vocal performance as well. I also love the transition for the solo to the crunchy guitar riff and rapid drum work. Hearing this song will make you want the album, but the rest doesn't seem to follow the same mold.

Stepping Outside the Circle is another extremely good song. Another rapid guitar riff and vocals that make you want to mosh or headbang, or do something of the like. The riffs actually seem more difficult than most of the ones on the other songs. This track is definately a keeper.

Art Of Balance is way too sappy. Brian Fair does not have the voice to be singing a ballad type song. In my opinion, an all around week performance. Nice guitar work seems neglected on this track.

Mystery of One Spirit has potential. The intro to the track is amazing, sounding like something Iron Maiden should have done more of back in the day. But after about 30 seconds, we sink back into the same old mold of most of the other tracks with unoriginality.

The rest of this album is extreme filler. If you hear one of them, you've heard them all. I personally think Of One Blood is alot better album. No bullshit, just balls out melodic thrash/death metal. This album displays too much of a newer Anthrax hardcore type vibe. Apparently these guys have been hanging out with Hatebreed way too much.

metal's next gods? - 95%

ironasinmaiden, December 25th, 2002

Before Art of Balance, I was the quintessential Shadow's Fall fanboy... at least 5 of my friends received burnt copies of Of One Blood (some against their will :), and it spent countless hours in every CD player I own. Of One Blood is the perfect blend of Iron Maiden style melodies and death metal intensity, with a modern hardcore touch... not to mention HUGE vocal hooks. So to say I was anticipating Art of Balance is an understatement...

Well if I was a SF fanboy before now I'm the captain of their fuckin street team, cos Art Of Balance pummels me like a chess club member in a football game. This album is 100% METAL. One of those records that you can put on and feel the metal radiate through the speakers. These guys have matured alot in the 2 years since Of One Blood, and if this is any sign, there will be great things ahead for Shadows Fall.

First of all, the production is crushing, something that OoB sorely lacked, IMO. Coupled with the heavy-as-unholy-hell riffage and smashing double kick, Art of Balance is uncompromisingly intense in places (destroyer of senses... wow). The biggest improvement has to be Brian Fair's vocals... they have more presence than in the past, both shouted and clean. He has totally come into is own as a force to be reckoned with (as have the entire band).

Almost every trace of hardcore in SF's sound is gone, something that is bound to please the assholes who fancy them "hardcore with growled vocals". Songs like Thoughts Without Words and Stepping Outside the Circle are incredible thrashfests with killer riffs (check out the solo to thoughts without words... dammmmmmn) and memorable choruses. The title track is most definitely a highlight, bringing to mind Testament's "the ballad" among other things... in fact most of the album reminds me of Testament's glory days of the Legacy and New Order.

If you fancy yourself a metalhead, if you like metal in any way GET THIS ALBUM, you won't regret it. There aren't many bands playing straight up old school metal these days, and Shadows Fall do it.. .very... well. As mentioned in the review, these guys have something special as far as songwriting and talent goes, and they are going to be huge someday.