Shadowplay - Alone
Self Financed
Melodic/Atmospheric Dark Rock
10 songs (42:25)
Release year: 2003
Reviewed by Jason
Surprise of the month

Not being a particular fan of melodic rock or Evanescence, its surprising to feel so allured to the music from this Australian female vocally led band (A demo on top of that!). A careful listen to Shadowplay’s music turned that surprised feeling to logic though, as I realized that even though Shadowplay does borrow elements from both of the aforementioned, they manage to push them to a new level and weave it together with a combination of angelic vocals, and instruments that serve a purpose other than just a background.

Shadowplay’s music can be best described as dark, ambient, and soulful hard rock that generously uses synthesizers but is not shy to eclectically reflect hints of the metal spirit with hard, palmed, riffs and progressive inspired drumming. The vocals, led by Alitia Atkins, are smooth, radiant and basically keep a mellow resonance throughout the album. Same goes for Duane Bonney, who along with drumming, supports Atkins on the mic. Both Bonney and Atkins have extraordinary voices and succeed in delivering a deep and atmospheric sound to the listener. Instrumentally, Shadowplay truly sets themselves apart from the down-tuned repetitive sound synonymous with Evanescence. While the music itself at times can sound somewhat simple and act as just a background for the Vocals, it is almost always interrupted by instrumental interludes that feature some Jason Rullo (Symphony X) styled drum work or some interesting synthesizers that border Techno or Electronica. Linus Chen isn’t afraid of using some of the tiny strings on his guitar, as many stylistically similar bands are, and frequently throws in some exceptional solos to compliment the dramatic style of this album.

Though the seventh track, titled “The Calm Before”, is thirty-seconds or so and serves as an introduction to the epic seven minute tune “The Awakening”, I just love the small segment of Electronica that bursts into a galloping Metal riff, which is followed by a short Stratovarius styled keyboard solo. The short intro is then followed by “The Awakening” and is perhaps the best track on the demo. Atkin’s and Bonney’s vocals are haunting, the synths don’t drown the awesome guitar work and the drumming is off-beat and at its finest.

Another truly awe inspiring aspect about this demo is the flaming sound quality and professionalism that is rarely seen on self-financed/self-produced albums. It really makes you think about the vast steps being taken taking in technology, because if one contrasts the time, effort, and money spent on recording only Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and then take Shadowplay’s entire demo which was recorded partly in a high school drama room and Chen’s home, its quite impressive to realize how far we’ve come in only 30 or so years. But much as technology progresses, it will never be able to brush away the line between true talent and imitation. While many bands hide their lack of talent by heavily using synths, and overly distorted guitars, Shadowplay doesn’t go overboard and uses these features only to accentuate their talent.

The only complaint I may have about this demo is that there are definite moments where I believe Atkins and Bonney could have used their vocal talents to reach higher and broader notes to really put them over the top. The vocals are generally mellow, but when it comes time to deliver a soaring or high note, there are some instances where there could have been fantastic opportunities to let those vocal talents shine.

In all, this is a very impressive debut for the Australians (now British residents) who call themselves Shadowplay. Although it may be a little difficult to get your hands on one of these demos, most of the album is available to hear for free on their site. I’m looking forward to hearing more from Shadowplay in the coming future!

Killing Songs :
"Unforgiven Years", "The Calm Before", "The Awakening"
Jason quoted 81 / 100
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