Progressive Metal criticizers often claim that it is a deliberately over-complicated music that is written for sake of displaying technical abilities, and many artists in the genre often stretch the boundaries of good taste with experimenting. Unfortunately, in many cases it is hard to disagree with those claims, and perhaps, the fact that you can’t really surprise anyone with virtuoso performances and top quality production these days, is one of the reasons why Progressive Metal is beyond its peak of glory.
However, when musicianship and creativity collide – Great releases get formed, such as the subject of this review – “Shadow”, a four-song EP by the Israeli Progressive Metal act Scardust. Basically, “Shadow” is a concept record, that tells the story of Icarus’ daughter, which was haunted by her father’s obsessions to fly, which led her to follow his steps. The storyline is accompanied by an epic-flavored, fairly sophisticated, but well comprehendible music, and sung by impressive and versatile female vocals.
The music on “Shadow” is diverse and inspired by several styles within Progressive Rock, from softer ballads, through more folky rock a-la Jethro Tull, to rougher Fates Warning style Metal. While there is no doubt that each musician that was involved in the record is a master of his instrument, they use their skills just in the right places and in right amounts, and that makes each track comprehendible, and easily memorable for any listener. Untypically to the genre, the tracks are pretty short – No track on the EP exceeds five minutes – And that leads to another non-trivial virtue of “Shadow” – Every part and every passage in the tracks serves the concept and the storyline, and you won’t find any parts that are there for technical show-off, or just for filling gaps: “Shadow” is a record of hundred percent content and zero percent fillers.
While the music of Scardust has room for each instrument to express itself, the definite dominant element of their music is the vocals. The role of the vocals on “Shadow” could perhaps be compared to the role of King Diamond’s vocals in his records. Similarly to what King Diamond does, Noa Gruman, the singer of Scardust uses her inhuman vocal range and versatility to vocally express moods and situations in the story told by the lyrics. The weapons in her impressive vocal arsenal include high pitched opera singing, slightly distorted rock voice, beautiful clean singing and even extreme metal screams and growls. In addition to lead vocals, a choir is used to emphasize the theatrical effect on several passages.
Not only that it’s difficult to find any flaws in “Shadow”, but also the virtues of the record are standing out right at the showcase. To complain about the production that sounds a bit cheap, especially when we talk about an unsigned band, would be a miserable pettiness, while the concept and beautifully written lyrics, interesting and epic music and outstanding vocals will bring excitement and joy to any melodic/progressive metal fan, or just a good music appreciator.
– Timur Sizov