Everblack Industries/Ferret Music – USA – 2009
Universally considered the most versatile group in the NWOAHM (that’s your favorite Lamb of God, Devildriver, and Kilswitch Engage), the last coupla years sees has seen Shadows Fall enduring the indignities of an ill-received album (2007’s excellent “Threads of Life”) and going full circle in the music biz—from major label darlings to undergrond stalwarts once more—for this year’s “Retribution.” Released via their own label plus licensing and distribution deals with two other companies, this newest slab of testosterone drenched thrash metal bears the band’s familiar hallmarks yet still manages to leave us with an impression that crucial ingredients are missing.
Since this writer has seen them perform twice on each of their visits to the Philippines—and they always deliver with guns blazing—Shadows Fall’s abilities are indeed faultless. But considering the band’s level of songwriting, sheer musicianship, and flare for brutal excess, “Retribution” still scores as a mediocre release. Even worse, if you disliked the last album glimmers of it abound on this new one together with several tracks that harken to the band’s earlier efforts, namely the epic “My Demise” and the white-knuckle rollercoaster “Public Execution” that comes before the vitriolic finish “Dead And Gone.”
Aside from these winning tunes however, little inside “Retribution” truly rises to the occasion. “War” might be the strongest thrash song the Shads have ever done, unfortunately you’ve heard this type of song so many other times before. Even Lamb of God’s very own redneck assasin Randy Blythe can’t keep “King of Nothing” as engaging as, say, the catchy first single “Still I Rise.” Being a Shadows Fall album, the band members each have their moments to shine, especially the rather subdued Johny Donais and Matt Bachand guitar team who unleash beautiful fireworks on “My Demise,” the hard rockish “The Taste of Fear,” and “Embrace Annihilation.”
In summation, it’s the sognwriting thats let this album down, next to it is the rather tired music. As a result Shadows Fall don’t exact sweet retribution from their detractors and inflict a mediocre release on those of us who care.