posted on 2/2008 By:
The ubiquity of the female-fronted metal band in recent years has made it increasingly difficult for newer acts to stand out, but Australia’s ShadowPlay have made a good fist of it on their self-titled debut. ShadowPlay features neither the theatrics of say Nightwish or Epica, nor the commercial edge of bands like Lacuna Coil. Rather, these guys and gal have a more sobering, reflective air about them. All the key ingredients are present here – haunting, passionate vocals, sweeping choruses, tasteful keys and backing choirs set against melodic, slow-burning metal that’s big on mood and atmosphere. Recorded over a four-year period between 2002 and 2006 (and across continents at that), ShadowPlay is a surprisingly consistent and solid listen from start to finish.
Musically, this band is clearly a well-drilled unit. The vocals of Alitia Atkins cover just about everything from a gentle whisper to a soaring high-pitched delivery with ease. She is joined on several tracks by the deep croon of drummer Duane Bonney, and the pair’s tag-teaming is particularly effective on tracks such as “The Awakening” and “The Hour”. Bonney’s time-keeping is also a highlight, as demonstrated by the excellent drum-and-piano break midway through “Alone”. Meanwhile, Linus Chen’s solos are succinct, tasteful and injected with real emotion. He throws in a few surprises too like the Middle Eastern interlude halfway through “Unforgiven Years”. All in all, there isn’t a weak performance to be heard here.
As for the songs themselves, ShadowPlay has more than a few standouts. Rousing opener “Faded” kicks off the album in rocking fashion, before settling into more gloomy territory with “Alone”. The vocal combination of Atkins and Bonney peaks on “Unforgiven Years” with a superb, lighters-in-the-air chorus, while “Elegy” brings about a welcome change of pace with its faster, almost danceable beat. “Reveries” is a beautiful number and one of the best examples of ShadowPlay’s considerable songwriting chops. The album is brought to a close in style with the obligatory piano piece “In The Mirror”.
Aside from a few rare moments that lack distinction and a slightly over-compressed feel to the production, there is little to dislike about ShadowPlay. For a debut, self-financed release, this album is very impressive and has some genuinely great moments throughout its runtime. Those with a hankering for female-fronted metal should have no problem getting into this, but I would recommend this to goth, rock and even doom fans as well. ShadowPlay successfully incorporate a broad range of sounds and moods into their songs, and perform them with passion and flair. Ones to watch out for.
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