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Shadows Fall Retribution Review

Album. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

An ear-bleeding, whistle-stop tour of some of rock music’s darkest places.

Sid Smith 2009

As with their previous five albums, the formula for Massachusetts-based Shadows Fall’s sixth LP, Retribution, is simple: faster and louder, with as much growling as the human larynx can possibly take. Formed in 1995, the band continues to bludgeon their way across the thrash alternative universe with a devilish mixture of white-hot guitar and full metal fury.

Despite the jacked-up double-time speeding and thunderous triplets that constitutes the bulk of their sound, Shadows Fall contain enough old-school HM echoes to draw in a mainstream audience, which accounts for their clutch of Grammy nominations and Guitar Hero histrionics.

Like Killswitch Engage and others operating in this fearsome field, the musical policy is a strict diet of nail-hammering staccato riffs and unison parts bolted onto soaring choruses. Undoubtedly playing to the mosh pit, such structures provide a bittersweet contrast to all the blood and thunder of the verses.

Whilst Brian Fair’s growling vocalese offers the genre’s requisite barking howl, it’s his straight-ahead singing that more often than not delivers a real value-for-money punch within these tunes.

Taut arrangements and window-rattling riffs are the order of the day in these vignettes of betrayal, revenge, apocalypse and nihilism, which hurtle past in a blur that often threatens to burn up into white noise.

The outright melodicism of Picture Perfect with its near perfect, radio-friendly pop hooks or the courtly acoustic guitar passages interwoven into Embrace Annihilation act as a kind of ornate counter-punch on what is in effect an ear-bleeding, whistle-stop tour of some of rock music’s tightest curves and darkest places.

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