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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.