Rising-star underground metal kings SHADOWS FALL have released their third full-length, The Art of Balance, and one listen to this bad boy will send you back to the good old days - before this endless wave of cookie-cutter nu-metal bands was anywhere near a reality. SF have once again brought back the metallic viciousness that so gloriously dominated their previous release, Of One Blood, and have not let up a single bit. The heaviness found here is not due to extreme guitar distortion or rapped vocals; it comes from pure thrash riffing and galloping drums. METALLICA and PANTERA fans will fall immediately in love with SHADOWS FALL because of Balance (if they haven’t already because of Blood) and will most definitely be reminded of just how killer the days of …And Justice For All and Vulgar Display of Power really were.
If you’ve already heard Of One Blood, you’ll know what to expect here. Alternating vocals between Brian Fair and guitarist Jon Donais, from a death-influenced snarl to a clean howl, add diversity to the intense riffs relentlessly strummed out. The things that worked so well on the previous release shine here even more, with a special nod to the exceptional songwriting - the best example of this being on the title track, which I could swear is the reincarnation of METALLICA’s “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”. This is actually rather appropriate, since SF is already being hailed as “the second coming of METALLICA.” While this is true to an extent, the main reason the album kicks so much ass is because it takes those elements of yesteryear and adds a modern flair to it, without easily being categorized as “sellout” material. “Thoughts Without Words” also does this well, being the album’s “single,” so to speak. “Stepping Outside the Circle” is another standout, a no-holds-barred flurry of old-school thrash influences melded seamlessly with the most vocal diversity this side of P.O.D. (Just kidding.)
The album ends nicely with an unexpected cover of FLOYD’s “Welcome to the Machine,” which is actually executed near-flawlessly. It also is a nice alternative to the increasingly-standard “slow ballad” at the end of the modern nu-metal release, retaining the heaviness of previous tracks, just more subtly. Bottom line? Metalheads have new reason to rejoice - the days of old school have been reincarnated. (Century Media)