Artist: Shadow of Intent
Those who fail to learn from their history are doomed to repeat it. That’s the adage, right? Well, when its comes to mankind’s history, many of the finer points are underlined in blood and war—if they aren’t outright written in them. While there have been no shortage of technological and cultural revolutions that bring about advances without which we wouldn’t have the quality of life we have today, those revolutions are divided by periods of global turbulence—war, famine, bloodshed, slavery—that cast a long and dark shadow over humanity’s accomplishments. Those moments of unspeakable carnage and atrocity are the very basis of Shadow of Intent’s fourth full-length record, Elegy. Continuing their trend away from the Halo universe which serves as their namesake into a more mature and refined conceptual basis, Shadow of Intent have created a relentless testament to mankind’s darkest and most gruesome moments in the form of a stellar amalgam of melodic, symphonic and technical death metal with splashes of -core influence. Elegy is a fast-paced, relentless tour through the bloodiest blemishes the Earth has experienced at mankind’s hand, and is uses everything from scathing riffs, explosive percussion and eviscerating breakdowns to make its point.
There are a lot of ways one could describe the instrumental effort put forth on Elegy—one would be intense, another would be cinematic, but perhaps my favorite would be comprehensive. Elegy takes the Deathcore-tinted death metal that has served as the band’s mainstay since their inception and even further beefs up the symphonic, blackened and technical elements to make it Shadow of Intent’s most ambitious—and successful—album to date. From the moment “Farewell” kicks in, blistering percussion dominates the listener’s senses, with lacerating blast beats and frantic fills that are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Songs like the ravenous single “Where Millions Have Come to Die” see a whirlwind of percussion working in dialectic harmony with dense, beefy bass to lend heft and punch to the song’s enamoring speed. “Of Fury” and “Blood in the Sands of Time” see a more straightforward approach, blending more overt -core influence into a symphonic and atmospheric backbone; The titular trifecta that serves as the album’s terminus, however, is possibly the best means by which one can distill the instrumental experience that is Elegy. Here, a trio of songs that run the gamut from dense, metallic and chuggy to soaring, ethereal and otherworldly are put on display—with jaw-slacking, mind-numbing fretwork aplenty. Shadow of Intent’s ultra dynamic (and ultra-talented) guitar element is nothing new, but Elegy sees it at its most tasteful, with riffs and grooves transitioning beautifully into stellar solos or moments of barbaric, bare-knuckle brutality. “Of Fury” is an excellent example, as is “Elegy II: Devise.” Other songs, like “Elegy III: Overcome” and “Reconquest” amplify the bands melodic and symphonic influence, with fretwork that intertwines beautifully with the band’s keys and orchestral arrangements. All of these elements come together to create what is one of metal’s most engrossing soundscapes—something that serves as a stellar canvas for the vocal onslaught one would expect with a Shadow of Intent release.
Within heavy music, highly talented vocals and immense vocal variety have, more or less, become the norm. The “standard” or status-quo for vocal excellence has been shifted up so far that to be known as someone apart from “oh yeah, the vocalist of band X” is near impossible. With that in mind, just about anyone who has been involved with extreme music or metal/-core subgenres on social media in the last five years knows who Ben Duerr is—and its for damn good reason. He’s made a name for himself throughout Shadow of Intent’s history but also for his contributions as a featured vocalist and on previous projects—and while all different, each release he’s touched has served as a new height in his astronomical sky-rocket upward. On Elegy, Duerr continues his reign with twelve songs that further assert his dominance when it comes to being a metal vocalist. There is no one song that truly excels—although his work alongside Phil Bozeman on “Where Millions Have Come to Die” is a spectacle to behold—but rather, his work throughout the entire album as a whole is simply mesmerizing. Be it his range, his ability to fit the mood and style of a song like a glove, or the lyricism which is conceptual without being overbearing or corny to a fault—all of these aspects contribute to what is the strongest and most stand-out vocal performance of Duerr’s career.
Anyone who knows me knows that nothing in music can top my love for the all-important breakdown. However, once in a blue moon, a heavy release with a relative paucity of those moments of chuggy goodness can still break through and reside squarely in my heart. Elegy is one of those releases. Hammering at the listener for over an hour, Shadow of Intent’s 2022 release isn’t for the faint of heart—at least not if you’re planning on trying to digest it in a single sitting. However, Elegy not only serves as an applied history lesson, but it sees Shadow of Intent continuing their growth, maturation and expansion into new territories of heavy music and the alchemy that comes with blending them. Where I’ll always have a soft spot for their way of telling tales of Covenant, Human and Flood lore, there is truly no way to assert that Elegy isn’t Shadow of Intent’s finest and most immersive, intense and engaging release to date.
For Fans Of: Meshuggah, Nexilva, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Archspire
By: Connor Welsh