Label: Razor & Tie
Release Date: May 15, 2012
It’s almost hard to believe it’s been ten years since I heard “Destroyer of Senses” from the Art of Balance album. That’s when I really got turned on to Shadows Fall even though they’d already released two studio albums, Somber Eyes to the Sky in 1998 and Of One Blood in 2000. And all these years later I still wait with eager anticipation for every new Shadows Fall release. Which brings us to their latest release in 2012. Fire from the Sky is the seventh studio album release from Shadows Fall and after the success of their last album, Retribution, which was released in 2009, they had a lot to live up to. But before we get to the review, let’s check out the band.
Shadows Fall was formed in 1995 by guitarists Jonathan Donais and Matt Bachand and they are currently the only remaining members from the original lineup. Damien McPherson started as lead vocalist but only lasted a year before Philip Labonte (All That Remains) took over. He also exited after a year and in 1999 Shadows Fall saw the entrance of Brian Fair; growler, screamer and dreadlock extraordinaire. He has held the lead vocalist position ever since and has been an integral part of bringing Shadows Fall to the status they hold today. Bachand is the rhythm guitarist and also accompanies Fair on vocals at times with his deep growls and clean vocals. Donais is the lead guitarist known for his incredible technical solos and awesome melodic guitar. Paul Romanko has been handling the bass duties for the band since 1997 when the original bassist, Mark Laliberte, left the band. Jason Bittner is the newest member of the band, he’s been pounding the skins for them since 2002. The lineup has stayed the same for a decade, and that’s really when the band started seeing success and over the years their popularity has continued to rise.
Fire from the Sky was produced and engineered by the band’s longtime friend, Adam Dutkiewicz, guitarist for Killswitch Engage and Times of Grace. Two tracks have already been released from the album. The title track, “Fire from the Sky” and “The Unknown.” The video for “The Unknown” was just recently released. The lyrics refer to the temptation of giving in to depression instead of fighting your way out of it and was written from the viewpoint of someone who has already given in to the depression. “The Unknown” kicks the album off in a huge way and really sets the tone for the relentless hardcore thrashing that is to come. Right away you get plastered with blazing, intricate and melodic guitar work. The solos are amazing as always and the riffs are heavy and complex. Bachand sings the chorus with clean vocals “so close your eyes, and live in the unknown…” This song is blistering and brutal, the exact way you would expect a Shadows Fall album to open with.
“Divide and Conquer” keeps the thrash going at warp speed. According to Bachand, the band had been working on the song for a while but just couldn’t get it right. They tossed it and continued working on other material but at the end of the recording session they realized they didn’t have enough material. They needed one more song. So they brought it back out and began working on it but couldn’t figure out a chorus for it. Donais came to the door, listened for a few seconds, grabbed his guitar and said, “I got your fucking chorus.” He played a riff and just like that, the song was complete. Fair explains the lyrics of the song. “It’s kind of my posi-youth unity song. The more people get divided, whether it’s bipartisan politics or social standings, the harder it’s going to be to regain control. This song is about getting together to fight for a better future instead of sitting around and complaining and watching everything pass you by.”
Bachand shows his deep death growls in the third track, “Weight of the World,” a hailstorm of thrash and technical solos. Fair, Donais and Bachand all harmonize on the vocals of the fourth track, “Nothing Remains,” a song about drug addiction. The former is reminiscent of old school Shadows Fall while the latter brings out more of the modern sound we have gotten used to over the last couple of albums.
The title track, “Fire from the Sky,” has science-related lyrics about a star that goes supernova and begins devouring planets. This is more of a melodic death metal track, a blazing inferno of hellish growls mixed with clean vocals and a barrage of insanely technical riffs and solos.
“Save Your Soul” is not as thrashy as most of the album, but it has more of a metalcore feel to it. It almost sounds like it could be from Trivium or A Day To Remember. It’s a catchy song with a mix of clean vocals and growls and decent solos. “Blind Faith” is a thrashy political rant about society giving up too much control to the ruling elite.
“Lost Within” is the eighth track and in an interview with Premier Guitar, Donais spoke about his solo work on the song “I always like to balance things out. I feel the solo should be a part of the song. You want to hear that solo live because it’s a part of the song just like somebody singing a chorus. I like to do a couple of measures of going crazy, then slow down and play melodically to let somebody who doesn’t play the guitar have a chance to get into the solo. Plus, people who do play the guitar will like it, too, because there’s some fancy stuff in there.”
“Walk the Edge” is another catchy song about drug addiction and chock full of melodic guitar, sizzling riffs and tempo changes.
The album closes in the same blazing way it started. “The Wasteland” starts out as death metal but it seems to have a mix of everything Shadows Fall can do all smashed together in one badass song. It relates to the end of days and the hardships mankind has brought upon itself. The song ends with a killer solo, bringing this intense, brutal album to a close.
This is quite possibly the best album I have heard in 2012. It may not be the best Shadows Fall album ever but it’s damn close and should be a huge success for the band. Fair’s vocals are as aggressive as ever, Donais and Bachand have their guitars literally screaming, Romanko’s bass is gut-punching and Bittner is hell on the skins. They are one of the most talented bands on the planet and with the release of this monsterpiece their success will only continue to accelerate.