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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.