Album Review: Fire From the Sky by Shadows Fall

Some years ago I found myself in a metal rut.  I was a bit negative toward the new wave of metal that was coming in as I didn’t really care for the new wave of bands that were coming in around the early 2000s.  Slipknot is alright but, I don’t know, I never was blown away by them, same with bands like Korn the like.  I just kinda stuck to the bands that I had already established that I liked and didn’t really give the new stuff much of a shot.  Then one day I had a friend at work introduce me to an album called The War Within by Shadows Fall, to keep things short, I was blown away by it and from there I started paying attention to a lot of great new bands in this New Wave of American Heavy Metal deluge that was happening around 2004.  Ya, things got diluted also, but man were there some shiny gems with The War Within standing at the top.  Their follow-up, Threads of Life, well, it’s best we forget about that record and their previous record Retribution was damn solid, but never lived up to the greatness of The War Within.  They now have a new album called Fire From the Sky.  Does it capture the awesomeness and energy of their apogee The War Within?  Well, let’s see.

For this review I’m going to take a different approach than usual.  I’ve given a single listen to the record while I putzed around with other things, but have not put much attention into it yet, but I really like what I’ve heard so far.  I am now going to hit play on the album and give you what I think of the songs as they play by in a play-by-play real-time review, so you will be getting my near first impression of the album song by song.  Let’s see if this works out.   To Battle Shadowfax!!!!!!

The Unknown:  I’m really digging this techy intro riff with the two guitars playing in tandem with contrasting tones as well as Jason Bittner’s always amazing drumming (seriously, he’s one of the best drummers of the new millennium).  Brian Fair’s harsh vocals sound in top-notch and everything is off to a great start.  The chorus with Matt Blanchard’s clean vocals is mad catchy and he works the contrast great with Brian.  The ‘breakdown’ riffs are scattered and don’t last more than a few bars which is nice, get in and get out and let the breakdown do its thing and come nowhere close to overstaying its welcome.  The transition into the dueling guitar solo is nice and smooth and the solos themselves are nice and huge.  All in all, this song sounds more like the tunes off of the heralded The War Within yet it still has its own personality and sounds ‘newer’.  So far, we’re off to an awesome start!

Divide and Conquer:  Oooooo, this intro riff is f’n great.  Tons of headbanging positive energy and a great upbeat by Jason Bittner.  The vocals are tight as I have a bright smile on my face and an urge to break stuff!  As with the previous song, the clean vocal section is catchy as always, even if the former was a tad catchier.   The breakdown is a lot longer here lasting about 9 bars, but is timed and pulled off great as it transitions great into the short but sweet solo.  After a quick refrain the song is done.  I dig it, get in, get out, and make your point quickly.  Another high energy rockin’ tune.  Fingers are crossed that they keep this up!

Weight of the World:  The intro to this tune is a bit similar to the opening track but lacks the second guitar, but it’s still quite cool.  Nice driving riff and pulsing bass.  Brain Fair sounds like he is in stride now as and the cleans follow that stride with the catchiness.  The solo is great and has a bit of a power metal/Randy Rhodes feel to it but what I’m hearing under it seems to be stealing the show, damn is Jason Bittner a beast.  Dude is in top form and I have a feeling that he is going to be mentioned quite a bit more.  Those rhythms and crazy fills really add a lot to the songs by way of heaviness and groove.

Nothing Remains:  This tune starts off with a great groove metal riff and it continues through the refrain giving the tune a nice rhythmic ‘pop’.  The clean chorus is still catchy, but it sounds pretty similar to the ones from the previous tunes, and albums.  It works and I dig it, but a little variety at this point would put the flow of the album over the edge at this point.  The solo in tandem with that great groove metal riff really exudes some great energy.  I have to say, that riff has to be one of my favorites of the year so far, it’s got a great punch to it and Paul Romenanko’s bass playing really adds lots of color to it.  If it weren’t for that great riff this could have just been an average tune as there are no other real surprises, but man, that riff and the great execution.  I’m really liking the shorter song times as the band is making great use of them, no b.s. and straight to the point.

Fire From the Sky:  I really dig this intro, it’s kinda like a sped up doom metal riff interjected with some black metal tremolo, and there’s Mr. Bittner also.  The refrain caught me by surprise with the guttural death metal vocals and riffing.  So far this tune has a lot of different styles going on and they’re blending nicely without anything jarring something else.  And even more a killer thrash section just kicked in complete with a Slayer-style riff and solo before is melded back into the main riff.  Great tune,  it was that nice bit of variety that pulled any waning parts of my mind right back into the album and was full of great surprises and memorable parts.  One of the best on the album so far.

Save Your Soul:  If it weren’t for the thicker bass and the rough vocals I’d almost swear that this is a power metal tune.  The intro brings that great power metal energy and the aggression of thrash, a winning combination.   The ‘mini-breakdown’ bridge riffs are great and really and a nice hard punch to the tune.  The chorus is still in ‘Shadows Fall’ style, but there is more than enough changed in to for me to say that “this belongs with this song”.  Obligatory mention of Jason Bittner here.  The solo is great and over-the-top and the underlying galloping rhythm guitar riff really maintains some great energy.  At a bit over half-way, I am damn enjoying this album and even if it falters a bit from here, I still see myself listening to these 6 tunes quite a bit.

Blind Faith:  For the 7th song they have finally slowed down for a second after barreling forward at full force since the first seconds of the album.  A nice mellow opening transitions into a nice and hearty mid paced and some great Iron Maiden-ish leads over top of it.  Ok, break time is over.  After a well-timed drop the speed is right back up into ‘in-your-face’ before it slows up a bit slightly for a hook filled chorus.  The chorus really works great even if it is relying on an old trick of using the ‘sing-song’ vocal rhythm, positive outlook lyrics, and the drums riding the crash symbol and a 4:4 tom/bass drum beat under it.  It’s cheesy, but it really works and the vocals and music really make me feel all good inside.  As per usual the solo and accompanying rhythm are great and add a lot of power to the tune.  At songs end I feel really uplifted and good about myself 🙂  And this is why I love music.  While not breaking new ground this is a great tune and is superbly executed.

Lost Within:  Making up for the slower pace of the previous this one ain’t f’n around.  I’m really digging the Blind Guardian-ish leads on the intro, the contrast with the blistering rhythms work wonders.  The chorus I really dig.  It’s got a nice punk rock attitude and rhythm ala Bad Religion.  That catchy chorus really blends nicely with the blistering metal.  The bridge is a great stand out with as the punchy rhythm has a oldschool hardcore punk feel, yet it feels really modern.  Yet another great ‘get in get out’ tune.  Jason Bittner….

Walk the Edge:  The intro is great but the transition into the mellow and melodious refrain sounds a bit off.  As the tune picks back up it sounds great with the anthemic chorus, but when they go into that mellow section, it just sounds bad cheesy and throws the song off which is a shame because the rest surrounding it is legit.  Even the great Jason Bittner sounds lost as hell on that refrain as the best he can do is tap tap tap in 4:4 on his wood block.  A bit more work and tightening up of that really odd chorus could have really saved the song, oh well, they all can’t be zingers.

The Wasteland:  So now the final song of the record.  The intro has a great Slayer feel to it and Brian Fair is bringing out the death growls again as he mixes them great with his hardcore shouts.  The chorus has a great hook to it and is catchy as all hell as well as a great lead riff under it.  As per usual the drums are off the hook awesome.  At this point Shadows Fall have perfectly demonstrated how to use a breakdown properly as its timing, placement, and length are absolutely perfect and they are never abused or over stay their welcome.  The solos in this tune are nice and bright and carry a great feeling with them.  Jonathan Donias really proves his salt with how great he executes and how he puts lots of emotion into them.  A nice Pantera-like groove-grind session brings the album out and I’m left with a great taste in my mouth.

Afterthoughts:  I have to say that this is Shadows Fall’s best since The War Within.  I don’t think it tops the greatness of that album, but that is a damn hard feat to accomplish.  Every song has great energy and I really like the shorter song lengths on this record.  The musicianship is at top quality and Jason Bittner is off the hook and proves yet again he is one of the best drummers in metal today.  I would have liked a bit more variety in the chorus melodies and rhythms, but in the end even if a few were a kinda samey, they worked and their style maintained a nice positive vibe in the tunes.  I most definitely recommend this to fans of the band, for others it is well worth checking out if you dig on bands like Trivium, God Forbid, and Killswitch Engage.  The positive energy and catchy songs will make this an album that will be easy to listen to for many repeat listens.  Enjoy!  Peace Love and Metal!!!


About RiffRaff

Just takin' it easy for all you sinners.

Posted on June 11, 2012, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This is one of those bands I never gave much of a shot. I only own one album from them and it just happens to be Threads of Life. Maybe that’s my problem? This song you attached to this review is quite good; I like the rockin beat and clean vocals during the chorus. I had the intention of trying to check these guys out at Download, but they were up against Black Label Society and I was too imbedded in the crowd to make my way out and over to the other stage. So, I lost out on seeing them live. Either way, the new material sounds good and I might add them to my list of future purchases.

    I like your approach to this review, it’s like a real-time play-by-play. Great job covering it as it happened!

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