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One of the best in contemporary metal releases - 85%

headbanger54, March 24th, 2008

Before I get going with this review, here's my past experiences with Shadows Fall. I've seen them twice in concert, both of which they were the most metal band there, and this is their only cd that I own. So I'm not all that familiar with their previous works, but judging from their live performances and from Threads of Life, I say with confidence that Shadows Fall is a strong force within today's metal world.

Critics can say what they will about ToL, but the truth is that for every negative aspect there are two things that are done extremely well. For every bit that's metalcore, there's more that is thrash. For every light part there is an aggresive feeling that over shadows it.

So basically this album is more of a thrash release than a metalcore release. Here's what makes it more thrashy, great riffs, mind blistering solos, pounding drums, aggresive vocalsm and oh yeah did I mention great riffs? For at least a good one-half of the album a metalhead should be headbanging with their devil horns up in the air. These aren't watered down metalcore riffs, these are fast and heavy......the way metal should be. Now although there is a ton of progression on Shadows Fall's part, there are still some metalcore parts to this album. For one, don't even listen to the song Final Call. It's a typical metalcore song with a real cheesy intro, whiny vocals, and breakdowns. That would probably be the only complete failure of a song on this album. Sure others may have metalcore parts, but the rest of the song will most likely kick ass! And then there are some songs which are just awesome all around such as, Forevermore, Dread Uprising, Failure of the Devout, and Venomous.

And although you may find yourself pitted against a shitty breakdown here and there, don't fret for there is still hope! And what's a better way than to kill a breakdown than to play a kickass solo?!?!? The soloing on ToL isn't completely original but damn these guitarists can play. The solos do a good job of bringing in a new and fresh feeling into the song after they've been played. Just listen to the solo in Dread Uprising and then tell me that the guitarists suck! I also find that the drumming is fairly impressive here. Unlike many bands today it doesn't sound like he's hitting every single thing that there is on his drum set all at once and really really fast. There's also not a whole bunch of blast beats and although the double bass is used extensively, the snare and symbols are used to create a good rythym on top of the relentless bass drums. While typing this review I'm frequently finding that my head is bobbing along with the beat. The bass is seldom heard except on Just Another Nightmare, where it shows that he can play his instrument, but it just got lost in the mix.

Finally the vocals. Brian Fair's vocals are nearly as distinct as is his hair. I would easily be able to pick out Shadows Fall from a bunch of other metalcore bands simply by the vocal style. For the most part its a low, aggresive growl which suits the music quite nicely. Not quite a death growl, but also not your average crappy metalcore "growls." The only complaint I have about the vocals are the Chorus sections on certain songs. It seems that this is still one metalcore aspect which Shadows Fall cannot shed. Fair switches from his aggresive vocal style to a "radio friendly" vocal style which quite plainly sounds like a bunch of whiny emo shit. Thank the gods it isn't like this all throughout the album, if so the metal part and entertainment value of ToL would be significantly lower.

And apart from the usual aggresive feeling of ToL, yes there are two ballads, The Great Collapse and Another Hero Lost. But wait, both of them are good! The Great Collapse is a ver short, sweet, and classical sounding song which brings in some nice atmosphere to the album. Another Hero Lost is definitely going to be a hit single if it already isn't. Maybe not amongst metalheads, but definitely amongst the rock crowd. But hell I like it, good lyrics, good vocals, and a kickass solo? Yeah it's approved in my book. In no way are these two songs a downer to the album.

Overall this cd is worth it and it proves that Shadows Fall is the dominant figure in the so called "New Wave of American Heavy Metal", a genre better defined as metalcore. And just remember that heavy metal is like an apple, nobody likes the core. Luckily with ToL it seems that Shadows Fall is going in a better direction and their next release should only be faster, heavier, and more metal.