Artist: Shadow of Intent
Planets were decimated—entire species wiped from existence like dust off of a chalkboard. Bullets ran and plasma ran as readily as water and as hot as hellfire itself. There were moments of triumph and awe-inspiring, tooth-grinding and nail-biting drama alongside moments of barbaric aggression alike. There was all of this—eons of war and tension erupting over the course of mere minutes.
And then there was nothing.
For almost a year, things have been quiet. A war that erupted out of a small, two-man project out of a barely-known town in Connecticut has spent a little over twelve months growing into something much more intense and gargantuan than anyone could have foreseen. If you haven’t gotten it yet, between the Halo references and galactic references, I’m speaking of course of the symphonic, sinister and spine-shatteringly aggressive genre-defying display of power that is Shadow of Intent. Taking the heavy music world by storm with their debut full length, Primordial, in early 2016, Shadow of Intent stole the ears, hearts and heads of riff addicts and breakdown junkies from the Midwest to Moscow—and now they’re back. Grown two-and-a-half times since their breakout release, Shadow of Intent now manifest themselves as a full-on five-piece; bringing even more influences from across the musical spectrum into Reclaimer, an album that truthfully makes one of 2016’s (and heavy music’s) greatest albums look like child’s play. Furious from start to finish, with jaw-dropping symphonic elements and tastefully-written, tegment-tearing shred combined with soul-smothering brutality and slamming moments of barbaric tactlessness that could level Mount Everest, Shadow of Intent’s sophomore release is an experience that takes decades stacked upon decades of dialectic conflict and hurls it at the listener in an hour of non-stop fury.
Shadow of Intent, since their inception (albeit, they’re a fairly young act), have been a band that dwells in the shadows that add depth to the walls, corners and lines that serve as conventional barriers between genres. With symphonic touches akin to acts in the same vein as Fleshgod Apocalypse with moments more reminiscent of core-infused symphonic acts like Make Them Suffer—yet speed and the speed and technicality of a tech-death juggernaut and a penchant for raunchy, ruthless heaviness that rivals most major-league conventional deathcore acts, it’s difficult—nigh, impossible—to affix a standardized genre to Shadow of Intent. This was true of the musicianship on Primordial and it’s even more true on Reclaimer. With the addition of a full line-up and an extra eighteen months under their belt since the completion of their debut, the band’s musical stylings take on the same chimeric combination of all things heavy, yet with a more realistic and relevant hue. The percussion—provided by Matt Kohanowski—is perfect; punctual and flawless down to the last dizzying polyfill or precariously played pattern. Songs like “The Horror Within” showcase his skill brilliantly, as does the instrumental epic “The Great Schism,” or the climactic closing number, “The Tartarus Impalement.” On the latter two tracks especially, Kohanowski can be seen working brilliantly with chief songwriter and master of all things furiously fretted, Chris Wiseman. Wiseman builds sprawling, stellar soundscapes out of mere nothingness; he does it from the symphonic and moving introduction, “We Descend,” through “The Return” and “The Prophet’s Beckoning,” all the way to the last seconds of Reclaimer’s runtime. Wiseman works with Kohanowski brilliantly to create moments of behemoth brutality (both in reference to the mythical creature and the legendary Black Metal act) on “The Forsaken Effigy” or “The Catacombs,” just as they work together dynamically on the instrumental number, “The Great Schism,” to create one of Reclaimer’s most immense and engaging songs. Wiseman—while still proficient in the arts of breakdowns and slams alike—brings a much more riff-driven and streamlined approach to Shadow of Intent’s sound this time around; he can be heard adding gritty grooves here and there, just as he is more than adept with solos that are sharp enough to slice the listener’s ears cleanly from their head. Where Wiseman excels, as do Frederico Zuccarelli, Shadow of Intent’s second guitarist, as well as bassist Keith Kohlhepp, whose thick and sludgy bass adds punch to Kohanowski’s more fleetly-footed moments, giving the band’s bold breakdowns an extra dose of brutality that won’t send the listener flying out of their seat, but rather, will simply shatter the seat from under them.
Shadow of Intent, as remarkable as the group’s instrumentation is, are a name synonymous with the positively stellar vocal efforts of frontman and lyricist Ben Duerr, whose incredible endurance, range and unique voice take an above-average display of symphonically-tinged aggression and make it positively otherworldly. Reclaimer sees Duerr cashing in every penny of his hard-earned and well-deserved internet infamy, using shrill, shrieking high screams and lows that reach under the bowels of Hell to shine alongside internationally-renowned vocal heavyweights Alex “Terrible” Shikolai (Slaughter to Prevail), Dickie Allen (Infant Annihilator) and Jason Evans (Ingested) and many more who might not even be featured on this monster of a release. Where Primordial definitely saw Duerr at his prime then, Relcaimer is many months of continued growth and practice come to fruition—and songs like “The Heretic Prevails” and “The Mad Tyrant’s Betrayal” are proof of that—as is just about every other song that defines the hour of pure punishment that Duerr inflicts upon the listener. New to Shadow of Intent’s dynamic are the heavily blackened vocal styles employed by Duerr towards the end of “The Prophet’s Beckoning,” as well as the sparse-but-incredible moments of symphonic singing that are spread like flecks of granulated diamond throughout the grisly rough that is Reclaimer. Heard towards the tail end of “The Horror Within” and at other moments throughout the release, these soaring syllables do an excellent job of matching the more melodic and moving moments of the release—moments split into shreds by skin-shredding brutality, during which Duerr’s unfathomable talents reign supreme. In short, 2016 and 2017 have seen Duerr gain an incredible amount of notoriety among the heavy music underworld—and if at all possible, Reclaimer is evidence that he could stand to gain even more.
Stunning solos, grooves that carve canyons into solid firmament, hyperdissonant breakdowns that could eradicate life from an entire galaxy without second thought or remorse and symphonies that simply drop jaws, Reclaimer is the sound of a band finding balance and progression—taking the most memorable moments from an incredible and using them as a scaffold for an unstoppable follow-up. Shadow of Intent have grown in every way, shape and form imaginable, from songwriting to the individual musical and vocal components of the songs themselves—so if there was ever a doubt that the throne to domination of underground brutality was ever out of their possession, 2017 sees Shadow of Intent Reclaiming it.
For Fans Of: Cattle Decapitation, Beyond Creation, Ingested, Nexilva, Make them Suffer
By: Connor Welsh