It’s Thursday again and you know what that means; time to talk about some old people that wrote, played, and recorded awesome music. In the grand scheme of things, Shadows Fall isn’t really that old of a band, but for the past 15 or so years they have been releasing consistently good music. Along with bands like Lamb of God and Killswitch Engage, they helped to redefine the sound of heavy metal music for the new millennium.
In the mid 1990’s, when mainstream American heavy metal was largely defined by nu metal bands, real metal was on the back burner and surviving mainly in the underground scenes. The Massachusetts hardcore and metal scene proved to be a crucial area for the revival of metal as it contained the ingredients for removing the aftertaste of the “limp biscuits” that were lingering in the mouths of hungry metalheads. In 1997, the first of many ingredients was unleashed with the release of Shadows Fall’s debut album “Somber Eyes to the Sky”. Although this debut wasn’t particularly groundbreaking nor did it really garner any attention outside of the scene, it was still important since it allowed the band to play around with the Gothenburg melodeath sound before completely abandoning it to establish their own unique brand of metal. Plus, it was the only album to feature Phil Labonte on vocals which is pretty bad ass.
For Shadows Fall, the early 2000’s turned out to be the most important years in terms of evolving and establishing their sound. Brian Fair made his first appearance as the band’s vocalist on their 2000 release “Of One Blood”. This was also the band’s first album released through Century Media records. So with better production and a vocalist that was better fit for the band’s style, they were on their way to becoming a solid entity in the metal community. In 2002 they released “The Art of Balance”. This was the album that basically served as a template for the sound of all their future releases. By this point they had shed nearly all of their melodic death metal influences in favor of a unique blend of thrash and hardcore. This was also the first album to feature Jason Bittner on drums, therefore completing the classic Shadows Fall line-up. With “The Art of Balance” Shadows Fall found their niche.
The main reason I’ve always liked this band was for their ability to combine everything that’s awesome about metal. Matt Bachand and Jon Donais are modern day riff-masters and really help to bring the thrash back into metal. Also, Donais’s leads can be incredibly technical at times. Brian Fair has a fairly distinctive voice and the harmonies he creates with Matt are an appropriate fit for many of their choruses. Elements of their 90’s hardcore roots (particularly Overcast) bleed through some of the rhythmic sections and breakdowns. I should also mention that no contemporary metal band can write a better power ballad than these guys. Shadows Fall is a great band and definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a younger band with a timeless sound.