#20: SHADOWS FALL – THE WAR WITHIN
We recently polled a wide array of musicians, managers, publicists, label reps, and writers from within the world of metal to find out what they thought the 21 Best Metal Albums of the 21st Century So Far have been. Eligible albums were released between January 1, 2000 and April 1, 2009. Each panelist turned in a ballot, with their #1 album worth 21 points, their #2 album worth 20 points, and so on and so forth. The ballots are now in and we’ll be counting down one album a day until we reach #1. Today we present the #20 album, coming in with a total of 105 points…
Shadows Fall, The War Within (Century Media, 2004)
Brian Fair – Vocals
Jonathan Donais – Lead Guitars
Matt Bachand – Rhythm Guitars
Paul Romanko – Bass
Jason Bittner – Drums
Produced by Zeuss
In 2009, “metalcore” is a polarizing word. Mainly because the fusion – of metal and hardcore, of screamed and sung vocals, of Sweden and America – is a cliché by now, a dead horse that’s been beaten by countless formulaic bands that forgot to write actual songs. Go back almost exactly five years, however, and the sound was as close to a revolution in metal as there has been this decade. Killswitch Engage’s The End of Heartache made an impressive debut at #21 on Billboard’s top 200 chart in May of 2004, but on September 28th of the same year their New England brethren Shadows Fall’s fourth album, The War Within, did them one better, debuting at #20. While neither of the New England trifecta of those two bands and Unearth would probably want to label themselves as “metalcore,” they represent the heights of the genre, for better or worse.
The War Within is the only Shadows Fall album appearing on this list, but the band almost deserves a slot based on the members attached to the band. Killswitch’s Adam D. played drums on the band’s first EP, which also featured All That Remains’ Phil Labonte. Current Unearth skinsman Derek Kerswill also played drums for the Shads.
Formed by guitarists Jonathan Donais and Matt Bachand in 1995, Shadows Fall released their first album, Somber Eyes to the Sky, in 1997. After metalcore pioneers Overcast disbanded in 1998, Brian Fair joined the band for Of One Blood, which featured several songs from their first album re-recorded with their new vocalist.
The Art of Balance, their third album (and first with drummer Jason Bittner), was solid, but The War Within was where they really hit their stride. The dual guitars of Donais and Bachand spotlighted great solos and dual harmonies that could be appreciated by both Anthrax fans and pentatonic sweep enthusiasts. Bittner’s chop-filled double bass drumming showcased him as one of the best metal drummers out there. And even without the visual of his calf-length dreadlocks windmilling around a stage, Fair was and is a powerful presence.
None of this would matter if the songs weren’t there, but from the opening acoustic strains of the Guitar Hero– approved “The Light That Blinds” to the punishing rhythms of “The Power of I and I,” each of the album’s ten tunes stands out. Fair’s forceful vocal delivery and Donais’ melodic clean vocals supplement each other on songs like “What Drives the Weak” and “Inspiration on Demand.” Five years later, The War Within still stands up as a testament to heavy music. Musically this is the peak, at least so far, of Shadows Fall’s abilities. The War Within has something for every metal fan.
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THE LIST SO FAR:
THE PANEL OF VOTERS
Chris Adler, Lamb of God
Dan And, Bison B.C.
Ben Apatoff, Apatoff for Destruction/Metal Injection
Jason Bittner, Shadows Fall
Tim Brennan, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
Freddy Cai, Painkiller Magazine
Ian Christe, Bazillion Points
Reverend David J. Ciancio, Yeah! Management
Betsey Cichoracki, Relapse Records
Paul Conroy, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
J. Costa, Thy Will Be Done
Dallas Coyle, ex-God Forbid/Coyle Media
Doc Coyle, God Forbid
Anso DF, MetalSucks/Hipsters Out of Metal!
Vince Edwards, Metal Blade Records
Charles Elliott, Abysmal Dawn/Nuclear Blast Records
Brian Fair, Shadows Fall
Leo Ferrante, Warner Music Group
D.X. Ferris, author 33 1/3: Reign in Blood/Freelance Journalist
Mike Gitter, Roadrunner Records
Nick Green, Decibel
Matt Grenier, August Burns Red
Anthony Guzzardo, Earache Records
Kevin Hufnagel, Dysrhythmia
Mark Hunter, Chimaira
Steve Joh, Century Media
EJ Johantgen, Prosthetic Records
Kim Kelly, Metal Injection
Josh “The J” Key, Psychostick
Jason Lekberg, Epic Records
Eyal Levi, Daath
Bob Lugowe, Relapse Records
Matt McChesney, The Autumn Offering
Jake McReynolds, Psychostick
Marc Meltzer, The Syndicate
Josh Middleton, Sylosis
Matt Moore, Rumpelstiltskin Grinder
Vince Neilstein, MetalSucks
Sammy O’Hagar, MetalSucks
Anton OyVey, MetalSucks/Bacon Jew
Rob Pasbani, Metal Injection
Alex Preiss, Psychostick
Carlos Ramirez, NoiseCreep/NetReach
Brian Rocha, Fresno Media USA
Jeremy Rosen, Roadrunner Records
Axl Rosenberg, MetalSucks
Satan Rosenbloom, MetalSucks/Cerebral Metalhead
David Bee Roth, MetalSucks
Jason Rudolph, Heavy Hitter, Inc.
Amy Sciarretto, Roadrunner Records/NoiseCreep
Carl Severson, Ferret Music/Channel Zero Entertainment
Gary Suarez, MetalSucks/No Yoko No/Brainwashed
Geoff Summers, The End Records/Crustcake
Bram Teitelman, The Syndicate/Metal Insider
Alisha Turull, Heavy Hitter, Inc.
Christopher R. Weingarten, 1000TimesYes/Freelance Journalist