The latest Shadows Fall album should come in a plain white sleeve with nothing but a bar code and the words “Contemporary ’80s Thrash-Style Metal Album Mk VII” stenciled on it. I am a tremendous metal fan, and have been for years. I have been positively exuberant over the late “rebirth” of metal’s popularity over the last few years, with new, exciting bands coming out of the woodwork and older, semi-retired bands making a comeback after all these years. I first read about Shadows Fall in a guitar magazine, and picked up “The Art Of Balance”, which I thought was a respectable metal album, with exciting, dynamic and heavy guitar work, good songwriting and some great soloing, and decent vocals. Bonus points for an interesting and cool cover of Pink Floyd’s “Welcome To The Machine”.
The follow-up, “The War Within”, unfortunately tried my patience, with an annoying style seemingly composed of differing rock and metal styles which never seemed to click together in a convincing way, plus positively annoying vocal work which was almost cringe-inducing. Sadly, after hearing the band’s latest effort, “Threads Of Life”, my patience may have finally worn out. Here we have great production values, good metal songwriting, and Brian Fair finally settling on a decent vocal style which actually sounds great (perhaps due to the good ol’ studio magic). The problem for me is that this disc is the most uninteresting, just plain BLAND metal offering I’ve heard in years. In the new 21st century metal music environment, where so many talented bands compete for attention and have some specific facet to show you, whether it’s killer chops and technical proficiency, a unique sound, or just being extremely good in a very specific sub-genre, Shadows Fall just don’t seem to have much to offer. Maybe I’m being to harsh, perhaps I’m just tired of waiting for them to make “The Art Of Balance, pt 2″, or whatever, but this is just the musical equivalent of vanilla pudding. I gave it an extra star because I still think this band has a lot of potential, they have simply been writing uninteresting music of late.