Shadowside – Inner Monster Out – 3.5/5
This is a band that have always felt to be on the cusp of greatness, and if you plunder the depths of this blog you'll find my atrocity of an early review attempt of their debut album “Theatre of Shadows,” and particularly my excitement at discovering a female vocalist displaying more ballsy rasp-laden lines than most men seem capable of, and pulling it off well. Her gender never becomes an issue and suits the music at least as well as any other, quickly dispelling any trace of a thought that she might try and pander to her femininity and sound like the plethora of Nightwish clones dominating the industry by roaring in your face. But it's been a long time since these Brazilians emerged from obscurity, and after their questionable (read: awful) second album (taking a lighter and thoroughly unsuited keyboard-centric approach to their sound) I felt it time to see how things have progressed, and it would certainly seem that they're back on track to prove to the world they deserve to be recognised. For one thing they've almost completely done away with the keyboards.
In fact, they've completely done away with gentle introductions altogether and open with a bang; a collision of crunchy riffs and powerful vocal lines fitting to the name “Gag Order.” In the four years since their debut they've been hard at work and the level of musicianship clearly shows that; more than the vocal lines which retain that balance between melody and aggression as well as ever, it seems that the rest of the band have stepped up to the plate. The drumming still remains delightfully near the forefront, delivering an array of beats fluidly changing as the track demands, and the bass is often is required to do more than just basic root notes to maintain the track's rhythm because perhaps the most remarkable improvement comes from the work of the lead guitars. There are more riffs littered about this release than ever before, and the complexity and detail in the solo's, shredding like never before and yet still displaying a sense of melody that suits the track at hand, adding a new dynamic to the music. They follow the old-school train of thought that a solo should be a song's highlight and rarely does it disappoint.
Sadly, the production feels a little too clean at times, the drumming coming off a touch too sterile, and whilst this isn't overly detrimental in more complex releases, in one so reliant on a simplistic melody and a heavy crunch it doesn't always pan out so well. The bass is on occasion too subtle and lost behind the chords of the guitar when you can often hear he's often doing more than just following them (listen out for the slap bass line in the chorus for “My Disrupted Reality”) and could benefit from being on more of a level pegging as the lead guitars where volume is concerned, allowing more potential for interplay between the two musicians. It also leaves much of the album – particularly during the chorus' – feeling just a little thin on the ground when the backing bass guitar and rhythm should be going into overdrive to give the song the support it needs; it leaves the vocalist feeling too bare, carrying the track entirely on her own shoulders, and as capable as she is, I hate the feeling that it sometimes gives that it's merely “Dani Nolden and friends” as opposed to a fully fledged band.
This is easily their most consistent release to date, feeling as though it might have taken them until this time to really find their own sound but are now comfortable in the style they've carved for themselves, much to the benefit of the release. Each member sees an improvement with every release that comes my way, and this is no different; it's harder hitting, heavier, and just as melodic as ever before, and whilst lacking the memorability of the best of their debut, never descends to the mediocrity of the worst presented there. On the cusp of greatness Shadowside remain, and all that's left for me to do now is await the next instalment for a band that feels as though their musical journey is only just beginning.
Highlights: Habitchual, My Disrupted Reality, Waste of Life