For Fans Of
New England deathcore natives, Shadow of Intent, are back with yet another symphonic death metal treat for the ears. Shadow of Intent is a unique breed of deathcore in which they effortlessly and beautifully merge symphonic elements into a fast and abrasive brand of metal. At face value, they may very well seem like every other deathcore band out there in an endless sea of bland acts, but if you take the time to really listen, you’ll discover the rich amount of melody and musicality hidden in the background whilst being absolutely pummeled into the earth. This band tiptoes the line between deathcore and melodic death metal with a near-flawless execution of musicianship and technicality. If deathcore has always been something that’s relentlessly bored you – as it is mostly a quite predictable and uninteresting subgenre at the best of times, let’s not kid ourselves here – then Shadow of Intent are here to steer you in the right direction towards the saving light. Whilst marking a departure from their Halo-themed lyrics of ‘Reclaimer‘, new album ‘Melancholy‘ shows the rising American band progressing in more ways than one, with their own lyrical concept – a demonic goddess, called the Gravesinger, creating a mass wave of suicides where the album’s dead protagonist spends the record wandering through the underworld in an attempt to escape – as well as a hyper-technical musical display.
From the moment the record begins, the piano sets the depressing tone for what’s to come. There is a perfectly fitting word to describe the lingering tone that hangs in the air of this record’s atmosphere – melancholy. (Huh, go figure.) It gives you a small taste of the melodic and symphonic elements that you’ll find subtly woven within the rest of the release. While the symphonic elements sound slightly toned down from their previous masterpiece, those elements are certainly still present in spades here; they’re just more subtle, more dynamic if you will. In nearly every song, you’ll hear swirling string accompaniments, lavish keys and pianos, and harmonizing, bone-chilling choral parts and chants, all as the band send you on a trip into a riff-laden deathcore hell. It’s as if there are two sides to this band; one side being the ridiculous, nasty, stank face-inducing death metal onslaught, and the other being the incredibly detailed and cathartic orchestral arrangements that makes one feel fully triumphant. These two realms of music are masterfully blended into a depressing yet somehow hopeful concoction. After doing some cursory investigation, Francesco Ferrini of Fleshgod Apocalypse collaborated with Shadow of Intent in regard to these orchestral and symphonic compositions. So it’s no wonder that these parts sound as good as they do here on ‘Melancholy‘!
‘Melancholy‘ is one of those records that’s just chock-full of sick riffs and technical displays from each band member. The band most certainly knows what they’re doing with their craft and they tastefully show it all off across their third record. As Shadow of Intent possess some serious talent!
For one, vocalist Ben Duerr has some of the most inhuman vocals I have ever heard but not only that, he is as versatile as a death metal vocalist can be. The variety and consistency in his vocals are truly admirable, as he’ll be providing the lowest lows and suddenly you’ll get hit with these piercing high-pitched screams. Then before you know it, he’s off doing that Archspire-like barrage of gutturals and screams that makes you question the very air-capacity that his lungs can support. I still fail to understand how a human being can create such a sound. It’s nothing short of mind-blowing at times. Another thing that gets repeated among these tracks are these pitched screamed/sung vocals that appear in most of the choruses. These vocals excel because they take away from the relentless death metal and allow the songs to breathe, to be more listener-friendly with a melodic chorus hook, yet these songs still remain heavy. (Although, after a few tracks, this particular vocal does become somewhat grating given they’re monotonous and sound the same in each track, but it’s a nice change a pace at first.) On top of the wicked vocal display, the lyrical content is also introspective and thought-provoking too; all surrounding a concept of life and death as well as talk of depression and the constant struggle with suicidal thoughts. There is so much more to this album than just the music and vocals themselves, and it’s noble to see a band of their ilk actually discuss mental illness in their own way.
The mastermind behind all of the music here, Chris Wiseman, is probably more well-known for being the guitarist and main songwriter for prog-metalcore band, Currents. Yet his mind-blowing work behind Shadow of Intent is something that cannot be ignored and is honestly much more creative and interesting. Considering his work with Currents, I’d say Shadow of Intent is his chance to truly shine and reveal everything that he can do as a writer. The addition of drummer Anthony Barone was also essential for this record, as his playstyle is perfectly-suited for this brand of metal. His drum fills are interesting and he doesn’t only rely on just blast beats either. His cymbal work is impeccable and always makes the songs more engaging than they already are. Along with Anthony joining the band is Andrew Monias on bass, who really stood out on this record too: the stellar production certainly helped him out there. His tone and presence are absolutely critical to creating the immensely heavy and over-bearing tone that’s felt on this record, especially with how well the other bandmates play off of one another to create a dynamic and cohesive listening experience. The instrumentation is top-notch but also never completely overdone for the sake of showing-off and maintains musical fluidity, unlike certain other bands (hey Rings of Saturn).
Each and every track brings something different and memorable to the table for the flow and run-time of ‘Melancholy.’ Be it the depressing piano melody that you hear throughout the opening title track; the schizophrenic lead-in toward the epic orchestral breakdown during ‘Underneath a Sullen Moon‘; or the perfectly placed and pure evil sounding guest feature from Trevor Strnad (The Black Dahlia Murder) on ‘Barren and Breathless Macrocosm.’ I could list something interesting about each song, but unless I want to really beat Alex at his word count review game, I’ll spare you most of it.
However, to hone in on one specifically killer track, there’s ‘The Dreaded Mystic Abyss,’ which is THE song that blew my mind to smithereens. This ten-minute behemoth of an instrumental gives you a break from the screams and allows the rest of the group to show what they’ve really got; they really turnt it up on this one. While it is a ten-minute instrumental piece, I don’t think I have ever heard an instrumental track like this zoom by as fast as this one does. There’s the harmonizing choir in the background adding some vocals to the mix, but this monster is mainly a stunning display of instrumentation, musicianship, and teamwork. ‘The Dreaded Mystic Abyss‘ is the grooviest track of the lot, there is no arguing that. With the ridiculous and blistering guitar solos, the jaw-dropping machine gun drum fills, and the groovy bass solo – I bet you didn’t expect to hear a bass solo in a deathcore record – it’s instrumental wankfest that just works so damn well and remains tasteful. This is one of those songs that make me want to give up playing guitar and instruments altogether because I know that I will never be half as good to pull off something like this. In fact, ‘Melancholy‘ is full proof that Shadow of Intent have more or less become the kings of modern deathcore, and a song like ‘The Dreaded Mystic Abyss‘ is the razor-sharp blade that will cut the other bands down in order for them to take the genre’s throne.
‘Melancholy’ is one of the rare deathcore records that’ll have a lasting impact; one that I’ll be spinning for a long time yet. This record is a real showcase for Shadow Of Intent to tastefully display their insane technical talent whilst remaining well written and easily digestible. This record is riddled with memorable vocal passages, great riffs, and hectic drum fills that are bound to pull you back in for another hellish deep-dive, all with some killer symphonic backing elements. You wouldn’t necessarily expect a band of this caliber to release such quality extreme music completely independent; their hard work and determination are clearly evident, and off the back of a demented deathcore record such as this, they deserve all of the success that comes their way. Shadow of Intent are undeniably at their very best with their current line-up, and they are not showing any signs of slowing down or relenting any time soon. I swear, death metal just keeps getting better and better every damn year.
03. Barren and Breathless Macrocosm (feat. Trevor Strnad)
04. Underneath a Sullen Moon
06. Embracing Nocturnal Damnation
07. Dirge of the Void
08. Chthonic Odyssey
09. The Dreaded Mystic Abyss
‘Melancholy’ is out now.