Grimoire of Ruin
posted on 11/2006 By:
What's On Tap: A quality power/thrash release from Seattle, with some production issues.
I really can’t stand cold and flu remedy commercials. Every time one comes across the ol’ tube and I see some bastard blowing his nose and fighting off a specter of malaise disguised as a cloud or a snow beast, I feel a little ache or sniffle. The same goes for allergy commercials. The mere sight of those bloody computer animated pollen spores is enough to dry my eyes to near mummification and encase my ears and sinus’ with fluid. Ok, so this is a rather unconventional way to start a metal review, and quite possibly mildly disgusting, but in a very strange way, the production on this record makes me feel like I’ve got a bit of a head cold. Ya see where I’m going with this? The production on the bottom-end of Grimoire of Ruin needs a shot in the arm worse than a 70-year old before flu season.
Now, before you get the wrong idea that my experience with this record was entirely negative, let me make the following statement to set the record straight – Shadow Demon is a really good band. These guys have effectively taken the groundwork laid down by bands of yore such as Hallows Eve, Omen, and Savage Grace, thrown in a heaping spoonful of early 90’s era Iced Earth, and finished things off with a fine glaze of Pharaoh, resulting in a band that creates a very high caliber of modern power/thrash metal.
The gold star for outstanding performance on this record definitely deserves to land on the fridge of vocalist, Blaine Hammond. His style is deep, warm, confident, and never strays too far out of his range. Think of a solid mixture between Tim Aymar of Pharaoh and Jon Oliva and Zachary Stevens of Savatage. And despite the murky mix on Grimoire of Ruin, Hammond’s vocals remain mostly uneffected, making the songs that spotlight him stand out as the record’s highlights. “A Dream of Dreams”, “Drums of War”, “The Dark Citadel”, “And the Meek”, and “Umbris Mortis” all feature the kind of fantastic vocal layering and chorus hooks often uncharacteristic of a band this young with only one full-length under their belts. Also of note is the fine lead guitar work of newcomer axe-man, Ryan Gallagher. There are a number of instances throughout Grimoire of Ruin where his fine noodling and shredding solos cut through the brume like a beacon from a heavy metal lighthouse.
Sadly, it’s the bottom end of Shadow Demon that truly gets lost in the murk. Co-founder/rhythm guitarist, Jeff Helm, bubbling-bass-banger, James Rinker, and skinsman, Jay Davidson are all very competent with their respective wares, but without the extra snap of a clear, precise production, their contributions get lost in the haze for a good part of the album. “Waking Among the Dead” and “Sea of Oblivion”, two tunes that rely less on Hammond’s vocals, and more on the band's hard drivin’ rhythm section, unfortunately fade to the background due to the lackluster production.
Folks, sometimes the ol’ grumbler in me comes kicking to the surface when I’m faced with a release like this. Grimoire of Ruin is truly a solid power/thrash release, and one I can easily recommend to fans of the genre, but with a little Claritin-D in the bottom-end, it could have been an excellent record. Of course these are the type of things that (hopefully) get hammered out as a young band gains recognition and gets a little extra spending cash in their back pockets, and I truly believe Shadow Demon are destined for that route. Definitely worthy of attention, despite the relatively minor gripe.
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