Shadow – Forever Chaos

Shadow – Forever Chaos – 3.5/5

Cast your mind back to the year of 1995, the year of Gothenburg brand melodeath; Between At the Gates’ “Slaughter of the Soul” and Dark Tranquility’s “The Gallery,” an entire new style to be cloned was formed, and thus we have seen wave after wave of generic mindless drivel spew forth onto the scene. The once honourable style has been condemned by many as worthless due to the poor quality music produced since, but damnit if this isn’t one of the most refreshing takes on it I’ve heard released since. In fact, the most apt comparison is not to their early brethren but rather Adagio’s last album, this time slightly more on the side of melodeath rather than Power Metal.

This is due in no small part to the manner in which the guitarist will perform a virtuoso neo-classical solo at every opportunity. Mixing melody in when he can, if all else fails he sweeps a few scales and still doesn’t sound too bad; it is the manner they are incorporated within the track that is more interesting than the actual solo’s themselves. The bassist accents the rhythm guitars, spending most of their time supplying that core essential style of riff to the sound, and whilst performed well feel nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary. The drumming is consistent, able to vary the beats used between sections well but perhaps lacking those little fills between passages that separates the good from the great.

Some will no doubt give this artist more attention for the female vocalist (the number of Arch Enemy comparisons floating around for example), but the truth is that this becomes rather inconsequential when you realise you probably wouldn’t have been able to tell either way. Occasionally demonstrating the high’s and lows she can reach, she all too often sticks to a comfortable mid-range resulting in a mediocre affair that feels deserving of neither praise nor derision, needing to make better use of her fairly impressive vocal range. Yet, whilst many aspects to their sound feel distinctly mediocre, it’s the fact that they aren’t content just blatantly copying another style; they have some ideas that whilst not always panning out – the slower and melodic brilliance of ‘Before True Light’ only destroyed by the occasional ‘goldfish gargling,’ and the promising start to ‘Within the Winter Silence’ failing to go anywhere once the main riff is established – demonstrate a willing to break the mould.

The album is produced well, with each instrument heard in the end result with only the drumming at times losing their tenacity, unlike so many other modern melodeath releases. It’s the fact that they have these great idea’s resulting in genuine originality that has me most interested, but there’s simply so much that feels odd and out of place. Successfully combining that raw aggression of their early years (actually feeling like theres some Death Metal in there) with a neo-classical guitar lead, this album came after a seven year gap, despite the same line-up, but now that the lead guitarist has left I’m worried about their future. There is the potential here for a much needed innovation in the style they play, but they have yet to realise it.

Highlights: The Existence of Suffering, The Orators, Land of a Dream

Shadow – Shadow – 3/5

Their self-titled debut, whilst not terrible, downplayed the neo-classical guitars for what felt like more Gothenburg chugging. It’s still not bad, simply a little unoriginal. Couple this with the continued lack of variety in the vocals; let’s call this one for ‘melodeath nuts’ only.