The Art of Balance
posted on 8/2002
I think everyone agrees on what an absolute power-impact Shadows Fall's 2000 release Of One Blood made throughout the metal community. It inspired standards while at the same time amplifying that American metal can compete with European and ultimately unified hardcore and death metal as one. The waves of crush can still be felt to this day of the importance of this album. Adding to the malay of course was the supreme use of the three vocal attack, which I can't think of a band that even comes close as far as multiple vocals of these standards go. With qualities of this magnitude a follow up to Of One Blood would be highly anticipated and along with it an expectation that is completely off the scale. I will quickly admit I believe upon the first couple of listens I cut The Art of Balance short due to my powerful expectations. Of One Blood was such a commanding experience, I was immediately floored by it's strength and of course this comparison was going to be made when I threw The Art of Balance in. What I am trying to say is, I set them up to fail. It was like some sick test your parents would lay on you back in the day. Well since then I have absorbed The Art of Balance at least 20 times if not more and have sorted through my expectation issues and have come to an understanding of the album.
Alright lets get to the meat of this dissection, undeniably Shadows Fall internal make-up is fucking brimming with superior talent.
Let's start with the guitarists, both Jonathan Donais and Matthew Bachand know their metal and in turn smack you around with pure fucking metal riffage, you can hear their influences run deep within and Donais's leads are of the absolute highest caliber, let's not forget that both deliver incredible vocals to the mix as well. Moving on to bass player Paul Romanko, nothing too overly flashy but an absolutely solid bass player that works the backbone with flare and is an essential member of the fold. Onward to lead vocalist Brian Fair, he ads an extreme diversity from a vocal standpoint coupled with a creative lyrical outlook and really just an overall powerful vocal delivery. Newcomer Jason Bitter has the chops and is no stranger to the demands of millennium drumming, he adds the dimension of power and does bring the pain. So how does this convey to the new album, well firstly I will say that The Art of Balance will not be as significant of a release as Of One Blood. Is this a bad thing, no, it's just fact but you take the talent of this band and you're still guaranteed a good fucking album; it's as easy as that.
Firstly, The Art of Balance will not be an Of One Blood part 2, so get that out of your mind immediately. What you can expect is a straightforward, straight up, pure of the purest-form heavy fucking metal release. The sounds of Sweden have left the building and have been replaced by years of American influence most notably the bay area movement. I hear Testament, Slayer, old Metallica, and the list goes on but also get the notion out of your head that this is a re-hashed thrash metal album. Are you really going to believe a band of this caliber is going to disappoint? It incorporates thrash but the hardcore influence is within the mix as well, elements of death rear their head but are nowhere near as frequent as on Of One Blood. The riffs are mighty and move fast with technicality always abundant. Two clean instrumental tracks add depth and a touch of beauty. Fair's vocals have matured and he gives an all out powerhouse performance with each note of his voice polished and mighty. The choice to ad a ballad to the album would be the only thing I could really rag on, it did absolutely nothing for me but I am sure it will get someone laid in the band a couple of times over. The Pink Floyd cover, Welcome to the Machine was an interesting addition, vocally it is almost a carbon copy, where Shadows Fall do ad their own interpretation is within the stellar riff that flows through the whole tune creating a tortured feel of pain.
Bottom Line: I've questioned Shadows Fall's motives with switching up their sound from their previous more melodic death metal approach combed with the hardcore feel but hey it's their band and they can do whatever the fuck they want. I do know that Of One Blood has earned them a worthy buzz throughout the scene in which I would have immediately figured they would have monopolized on release. Like I said earlier I really don't think this album will leave the same impact as Of One Blood did but it is absolutely worthy of Millennium Metal standards. Shadows Fall has already guaranteed themselves a lengthy career in the world of metal and this being the first fully written album with all members contributing, who can even predict what the next album will deliver. Should you buy this album, again we have a no brainer.
Fire From the Sky
Threads of Life
Fallout From The War
The War Within