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An obvious potential still untold - 68%

autothrall, September 5th, 2011

It took The Shadow Order half a decade to muster up a successor to their 2001 debut, Raise the Banners, but in the interim they kept themselves busy with a few split releases, sharpening their hooks and musical ability about as much as one could have expected. The cover art to Untold is beautiful, a striking trio of gasmask adorned women in classical, perhaps nun-like attired, speckled and grazed in stone and fire textures. Paired with the ominous inauguration of its ambient/industrial intro, I was actually expecting to be blown over by the sophomore, and the riffs do start out quite strong. But alas, the further one travels into its depths, the more typical the Untold becomes, never really deviating from the debut's style, even if the execution is superior.

The use of an actual drummer as opposed to a machine really helps strengthen the bottom line this time around, and the material surges and seethes with bitter, spiteful, respectable rage; only the riffs are rarely spun of a cloth superior to those of countless other bands, and they seem like a cleaner cut alternative to Darkthrone or their flock. The Shadow Order performs its mid-paced, rocking fare ("Hammering Judea", "Ascension of a New Life") with an appreciable punk/black fervor, but the total experience leans more towards vapid blasting awash in the occasional, desperate melody and a near constant, storm-riding aesthetic ("Hark the Beast of Prey", "The Harvest of Deceit", "One Road to Walk"). I do enjoy the various samples and slight use of ambiance scattered through the streaming torture of the rhythms (like "Pilgrimage", "Totenkampt" and the title track), but it also feels like such a welcome departure from the too oft middling metal that it's not saying much.

If one was seeking a bridge between the mid 90s efforts of Emperor and Marduk, then Untold would be a natural, competent crossover of the former's larger than life, windswept and airy churning guitar tone, and the latter's warlike, predictable if punishable writing. It's at least a fraction better than the debut in terms of overall quality and production, bearing in mind that Raise the Banner had a far more amateurish configuration. Still, though, for all this album looks and sounds better than its predecessor, The Shadow Order is still far from distinguishing itself among such a vast array of similar peers. Much of the execution of the album is right on target in terms of its audience, but Pyrron's vocals are pretty much the standard, and the guitars just do not inspire above and beyond their tearing, expectant aggression. Probably one of the better productions from the Hellenic NSBM scene, but that's not necessarily the highest of praise.