Album Review: Shadow of Intent’s Melancholy Achieves Perfection in Death
Before we get started, I’d like to take a moment to state that MetalSucks overlord Vince Neilstein owes me a shot for every time I told him how great this band is over the past two years, and for every time he thought he had better things to do. My next Duff’s blackout is on you, chief.
So what kind of album could possibly give me the confidence to publicly sign my boss up for a minimum $100 bar tab? It’s the kind of album that pushes the boundaries of what a genre can be. It’s the kind of album that gives you goosebumps every time you listen. It’s the kind of album where any flaws you find will be laughed right back at you for doubting its majesty. The album is Shadow of Intent’s Melancholy.
Melancholy marks Shadow of Intent’s third full-length album since the band’s inception as a studio-only project between vocalist Ben Duerr and guitarist Chris Wiseman in 2013. Joining them are Anthony Barone (ex-Aegaeon / A Night In Texas) on drums, and Andrew Monias on bass. SoI collaborated with heavy hitters Francesco Ferrini (Fleshgod Apocalypse) on the orchestral work, and with Trevor Strnad (The Black Dahlia Murder) for a guest spot on “Barren and Breathless Macrocosm”. Although 2017’s Reclaimer was nothing short of incredible with it’s relentless assault of blast beats, gutturals and Halo thematics, its one flaw was that it never left you much room to breathe; it was a beat down from start to finish. But that isn’t the case this time. Melancholy, as the title and album artwork might suggest, is much more mature and, ahem, melancholy. It’s blackened and brooding with blast beats throttled up and down to create the valleys and mountains of accents that Reclaimer struggled to achieve. They have also left behind the video game lyrical themes, opting instead to write a concept album about life, suicide, depression and death.
If you’ve listened to SoI’s previous work, then it won’t surprise you that the life/death concept is executed flawlessly. I’ve raved about the abilities of Ben Duerr ad nauseum and he just doesn’t stop getting better. Duerr has added more putrid highs, as well as spoken word and black metal shrieks to his repertoire on top of his trademark gutturals and growls. He is still the best vocalist in metal and at this point, his range borders are inhuman. The blackened elements of Melancholy show up most on “Gravesinger” and “Embracing Nocturnal Damnation” where the Dimmu Borgir style spoken vocals come in. But it isn’t just black metal they’ve combined with their brand of symphonic deathcore. Guitarist Chris Wiseman has pulled styles from all over the spectrum ranging from power metal, prog and even classical as well, and he even adds distressed clean vocals over the choruses. With albums that blend together different styles, people often end up hating half and loving the other, but Melancholy does everything well. Each band member goes 100%, but there isn’t a single moment where it sounds like a pissing contest. Each layer of Melancholy compliments its other parts so well that calling it a jack of all trades is an insult. Melancholy isn’t just the jack, it’s the king of all craftsmen.
Melancholy is a concept album about a wave of mass suicide controlled by a demonic goddess, the Gravesinger. Influenced by the curse, our protagonist kills himself and spends the rest of the album wandering through the underworld in an attempt to escape back to reality (the story goes much deeper and deserves its own Hollywood adaptation, but I’ll let you all soak in the plot and lyrics for yourselves). The album’s true strength is the way that the mood of the music and the lyrics both echo and compliment each other. The first three tracks are heavy and incendiary as the entire world succumbs to a plague of suicide. The title track sets the morose atmosphere, while “Gravesinger” brings a more blackened edge as the goddess spins her curse. And so on and so forth to the monstrous instrumental “The Dread Mystic Abyss”, which clocks in at a whopping 10.5 minutes, and the doomed conclusion in “Malediction” close out the album, the mood of the music dovetailing with the lyrical themes throughout.
Melancholy is one of the best records I’ve ever heard. In my 4.5 years writing for MetalSucks, I have given out a perfect rating only a single time. Then, as now, I listened to the record over and over again to try and find even the smallest flaw or mediocre part, and I simply could not. You’re free to disagree with me, but you’re wrong and you probably like the St. Anger snare drum. Melancholy has something for everyone, and the designation of just plain “deathcore” no longer does this band justice.
Melancholy is to 2019 as Nocturnal (The Black Dahlia Murder), This Is Exile (Whitechapel), The Anthropocene Extinction (Cattle Decapitation) and Absolute Hope, Absolute Hell (Fit For An Autopsy) all were to their respective years. Buy this album, buy it twice and then buy it again because Shadow of Intent are no longer just some deathcore band from Connecticut. If Reclaimer was the superhero jump, then Melancholy is the superhero landing, and with an impact like this, you can expect Shadow of Intent to send echoes across metal for as long as they feel like making music.