Shadows Fall alienated some fans with 2007's Threads of Life. They'd signed to Atlantic and brought the hooks and melodies -- always part of their inherent approach -- to the fore with a production style that was very close to the mainstream's idea of metal. While it sold in decent numbers, charted, and was hotly debated by fans and critics, it wasn't enough to keep Atlantic interested. The band formed their own label, Everblack Industries, for 2009's Retribution, which was a step back into their trademarked vein of thrash metal, and won back many fans they'd temporarily lost. Fire from the Sky finds them on yet another label, this time Razor & Tie. Produced by longtime pal Killswitch Engage/Times of Grace guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz, it's harder and heavier than Retribution, but the production is near crystalline. Brian Fair's vocals are right up front and you can hear every word. Thankfully, he's one of the better lyricists in metal. Here he examines spiritual, philosophical, and rhetorical questions that continually focus on the nature and meaning of life in the face of certain death -- while grim, these are wide open ideas; Shadows Fall have never been a "devil's" metal band. Opener "The Unknown" contains killer guitar arpeggios and a punishing bass throb, as well as the more proggy yet melodic bridges. The intricate yet fiery guitar and drum interplay on "Weight of the World" opens with Fair's direct charge: "Haunted/by the life you wanted/ The end is near/The end is what you fear." Between the shouted, growled, and sung vocals, the riffage of Jon Donais (lead guitar) and Matt Bachand (vocals, guitar) is angry and accusatory but nonetheless prompts existential questions, and while Fair may seem to simply laugh at its subject, it's far more complex than that. The sheer fury of the interplay between bassist Paul Romanko and drummer Jason Bittner (one of the best rhythm sections in modern metal) takes the cut over the rails and into the red. "Save Your Soul" could be early Metallica with its chug and stomp. The machine-gun drums and dual leads that introduce "Lost Within" make it an irresistible choice. Closer "The Wasteland" carries Fire from the Sky careening into the abyss on the hot coals of doubt. This is another step into the sonic and lyric terrain plowed on Retribution, but one in which SF's aggressive, thrashing abandon, musical sophistication, and melodies co-exist in near perfect balance.
Fire from the Sky Review
by Thom Jurek