Shadows Fall - The War Within
Century Media
10 songs (42:09)
Release year: 2004
Shadows Fall, Century Media
Reviewed by Jay
Album of the year

Shadows Fall has had the misfortune of coming to prominence at the same time as many of the other bands from Massachusetts who play a hardcore metal hybrid sound that, while remaining true to metal, seems to have too many influences and no general direction. As these so called metalcore bands release subsequent albums, few are impressing critics and fans alike with the rehash of their initial release or a total collapse in songwriting. Metalcore will not be sustainable. This will be an excellent development for Shadows Fall. This band keeps maturing, progressing their sound and doing everything right. The War Within is by far their finest release to date and it will be the album they are remembered by the metal community for. While some bands will die, Shadows Fall will be buoyed by this release. Their last album broke the 100,000 mark in sales and this one is sure to perform far better in the marketplace.

Ever hear that phrase “The best of both worlds?” Well you could apply that to many bands who fuse different sounds together such as Rhapsody who fuse classical and power metal or Rammstein who combine metal and techno. In this case, Shadows Fall combines old school 80’s thrash with the early 90’s Swedish death metal moiety. Their previous albums were outstanding but this one shines even more due to the terrific balance that is achieved. Despite being called The Art of Balance, their last album had the scales tipped too heavy in one direction at times. This album remedies all of those problems. When you blast this music, you’ll hear the attention to detail, the solos, the music that uplifts you, makes your head bang and your fist fly into the air. This is metal. In the tradition of what has come before, this will set a standard to be followed by other bands.

Jon Donais and Matt Bachand were recently included in a list of the top 100 guitar duos of all time. This acknowledgement is certainly not given in vein. I was stunned by the guitar work on this album. At different times Adrian Smith and Dave Murray, K.K. Downing, Nicklas Sundin, Jesper Strömblad, Dave Mustaine and Kirk Hammett all could be playing on this album. The equilibrium established between old and new is striking and showcases this band’s talent in not creating a facsimile but actually building upon influences and crafting something unique and new. In a world where everyone is a copy of another who did it first, Shadows Fall tears all of that down with innovation and progress. Brian Fair has advanced his vocal style so its less of the hardcore style he was experimenting with in the past. Understanding the need to adapt his voice to the music, he shifts from a gutteral growl at times to a forceful clean voice enhancing the music tremendously. Words cannot describe how big a difference the addition of drummer Jason Bittner has been for this band. He is a drummer who likes to put his own accent on everything he plays. The little extra fills and cymbal hits here and there really underscore the music and provide a solid structure to the tunes along with bassist Paul Romanko who throws in a few killer bass parts here and there.

We kick off with “The Light that Blinds,” an homage to classic Metallica in no small part. After the acoustic intro the metal begins and doesn’t relent for the next 40 minutes. This track showcases their thrash influences at the forefront and relies on death metal standard riffs to create the melody that drives this one home. Proving they know how to open an album, they also show that they can close one out. “Those Who Cannot Speak” is a chilling reminder of why we listen to this music. It touches the fabric of your soul in a way that nothing else can. Acoustic guitar again starts this track off and the high energy blasting begins shortly thereafter. Many chord progressions reminiscent of death metal greet us. Unlike many of the other tracks on the album, it slows down towards the end with a triumphant riff that elevates similar to something you might hear on a Gamma Ray album. Truly magnificent.

Let me take a digression and talk about the soloing on this album. It cannot be described in words. By far, this album has the best solos of any album that came out or will come out this year. Some are super technical, some are simplistic but all are killer. These two guitar guys will be recognized as wizards one day. Check out the leviathanic “Stillness” for more proof. Their dual lead intro is superb and the rest of the song isn’t bad either. While not on par with Yngwie, it shows that the two shredders have done their revision. Harmonics and screams are heard from speaker to speaker. It must be heard to believe. Fair’s lyrics have evolved as well. Instead of writing the typical metal faire, he explores psychology, war, and personal conflict with powerful and moving words that can resonate within each person. This album does have a vague concept of personal renewal and emotional growth.

Without a doubt in my mind and with no reservations I give this album my album of the year award. Even the one track that didn’t immediately grab me has grown on me something wicked. Shadows Fall have created an album for the ages and should be recognized for this achievement. This will please metalheads young and old. Metal ain’t dead as long as Shadows Fall has anything to say about it.

Killing Songs :
Every song is beyond killer. Not one weak track to speak of. This must be heard to be believed.
Jay quoted 99 / 100
Jeff quoted 95 / 100
Aleksie quoted 94 / 100
Jason quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Shadows Fall that we have reviewed:
Shadows Fall - Fire From the Sky reviewed by Leah and quoted 76 / 100
Shadows Fall - Retribution reviewed by Boris and quoted 70 / 100
Shadows Fall - Threads of Life reviewed by Jeff and quoted 75 / 100
Shadows Fall - Fallout From The War reviewed by Marty and quoted 80 / 100
Shadows Fall - The Art of Balance reviewed by Alex and quoted 91 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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