Now Shadows Fall, despite being considered originators of the vaunted NWOAHM alongside Lamb of God and Killswitch Engage, were always a step above their peers when it came to imaginative songwriting and sheer musicianship. Unfortunately for this year's Retribution, whose title may bear a double meaning aimed at those who disliked 2007's major label debut and career milestone Threads of Life, the Shads fumble on their core strengths.
For starters, the band's originality has suffered and the listener knows it when the acoustic intro The Path To Imminent Ruin slides in. Worse, once the epic My Demise arrives, it proves a run of the mill thrash tune that has a few excellent parts, but is polluted by a messy guitar duel slap dab in its middle. Its follow up Still I Rise does have energy in spades, but compared to Shadows Fall's past material beginning with the career defining The Art of Balance, it falls short yet again. And what happened to the awesome lyrics? By simply reading the song titles, long time followers are aware something is amiss here. From a band that once wrote:
We are given the gifts of creation!
We are given
All of the light
And purity of the universe.
Shadows Fall v.2009 sing:
Open myself to sweet destruction
Still I welcome this rejection
The real tragedy of Retribution is Shadows Fall have lost their mojo. All right, there's ample praise for the album's polished veneer and musicianship because these guys are pros at what they do. But when the details come into focus it's a sorry sight considering how influential the Shads used to be. Some years ago the quintet were even hailed as the next Metallica! Not anymore.
This reviewer saw two of the songs here premiered live when the band played in the Philippines last summer. No doubt both were incredible—so was the show--and the songs A Public Execution and King of Nothing (here it has Randy Blythe screaming on the chorus) are indeed the album's highlights together with the rollicking closer Dead And Gone. As for the rest: it's sort of embarrassing, really.
There are a couple of covers at the end too, however, these don't redeem this lackluster Retribution one bit. Unless Shadows Fall can soldier on and reclaim their fire, matters are looking grim from this most excellent American metal band.