REVIEW: Shadow of Intent – Melancholy [2019]

Artist: Shadow of Intent

Album: Melancholy


One of the things you learn in medical school is how antidepressant medication works. About five years ago—maybe a touch more—there were findings that linked the use of certain antidepressant medications with an increase in adolescent suicide. Well hold the fucking phone, thought the community at large. That can’t be right. It is—and what’s better is that there’s a biochemical explanation. SSRIs—the go-to antidepressant—take about six weeks to reach peak efficacy at a given dose. However, within two weeks, the lethargic, anhedonic symptoms of depression abate. What does this leave? A shift from true depression to a melancholic state of internally directed aggression—the self-hatred that stems from depression mixed with the newfound energy to do something about it. 

How does this relate to one of the biggest unsigned acts in heavy music, Shadow of Intent? Their third full length release, Melancholy, captures the mix of aggression, desperation and energy described by its name perfectly. Combining brooding darkness with high-energy salvos of scalding metal, Shadow of Intent move away from the -core moniker appended to their previous releases on Melancholy, drawing heavily from the likes of blackened and symphonic death metal to make an incredibly diverse record that runs the spectrum of human emotion as readily as it runs the spectrum of metallic sub genres—promising to be anything but a melancholic experience for heavy music enthusiasts.

Shadow of Intent have always prided themselves on maintaining an epic sound, whether it be through brutality or breathtaking ethereality. That trend continues to grow on Melancholy, where Shadow of Intent’s penchant for massive sounding songs with jaw-dropping climactic segments and awe-inspiring songwriting is at its all-time highest. Guitarist and songwriter Chris Wiseman is a mastermind behind the fretboard, expertly blending progressive and symphonic death metal stylings with deathcore, black metal and slamming death metal all without discrimination. “Barren and Breathless Macrocosm” and “Underneath a Sullen Moon” are two examples of his ability to go old-testament style aggressive, while the impressive and immense instrumental, “The Dreaded Mystic Abyss” sees him working beautifully with percussionist Anthony Barone and bassist Andrew Monias to unleash ten-plus minutes of magnificent instrumental metal that hits hard, hits fast and doesn’t stop hitting until the song is through. Other songs—“Oudenophobia” and “Gravesinger” are a more varied display of Wiseman’s skill, where the former is a raunchier, heavier cut and the latter is melodic and entrancing, as Monias’ bass weaves hither and to through Barone’s percussion and Wiseman’s riffsmithing to add heft and density to the otherwise atmospheric elements of this symphonic stand-out. Where Shadow of Intent have grown in intensity with each release, they also grow here with warmth, as all of the instrumentation sounds much more organic and energetic, playing up the stunning technicality and songwriting that the quartet put forth.

When Shadow of Intent indicated Melancholy would veer away from the band’s previous narratives involving the Halo video game/book series, some listeners might have been skeptical (to say the least; browse some Facebook comments for some examples). However, while the band might have moved away from the tales of our beloved Master Chief, they are damned sure still epic to say the least—in much thanks to the lyricism and vocal efforts of frontman Ben Duerr. Duerr’s fame has transcended “underground talent” to “heavy music household name,” and if you weren’t convinced as such on Reclaimer or his other project Hollow Prophet’s 2018 EP, then Melancholy should have no problem convincing you. On every track (save the aforementioned instrumental), Duerr’s voice cuts through, wielding an immense range, variety and endurance. Whether it’s the punchy one-liner in “Barren and Breathless Macrocosm,” the speed on “Gravesinger,” or the overall variety in clean-vs-harsh vocals peppered throughout Melancholy, it’s hard to believe there’s anything Duerr can’t do. So, no, the songs themselves are not tied by a common thread of aliens, The Flood or The Pillar of Autumn, but they are conceptually driven by something more emotional, insightful and—dare I say, as a Halo fanatic—meaningful than Shadow of Intent have heretofore attempted.

My favorite—but also most frustrating—thing about Shadow of Intent is trying to ascribe a label to them. Before, it seemed adequate to just dress “deathcore” up with some adjectives and let ‘er rip. That is true no more. While the lead single—as well as the revised “Underneath a Sullen Moon” and “Oudenophobia” still know how to break it down, much of Melancholy relies on breakdowns in the more literal sense—a climax, as opposed to some chugs and pissed lyrics. The album touches everything from blackened death metal to symphonic and progressive metals equally, keeping the listener on the edge of their seat no matter what. In fact, were it not for the odd breakdown or slamming sequence, it might be fair to remove “-core” from the band’s influences altogether. Much in the way that Black Tongue changed up their sound immensely to bring forth one of 2018’s most surprising (and great) releases, Shadow of Intent have overhauled their sound to create something gloomy, gritty, aggressive—but also atmospheric, catchy and beautiful—all without sticking to any one genre. In short, while Melancholy might have a downer of a name, the record is anything but; in fact, it is an instant contender for one of 2019’s most fluid, dynamic and cleverly written metal releases thus far.



For Fans Of: Make Them Suffer, Dark Throne, Ingested, AngelMaker

By: Connor Welsh