Reviews : Albums : Shadow Demon, "Grimoire of Ruin"

Shadow Demon, "Grimoire of Ruin"

Shadow Demon is a five-piece power thrash metal band out of Seattle and this is their debut release. "Grimoire of Ruin" is a traditional underground metal album in terms of riffs, song arrangements, vocals and production - everything is certainly up to snuff if you're into the style, but there's not a hint of "modern" metal to found, so if you're addicted to the Pro-Tools sound and breakneck intricate riffage, you probably won't find much to your liking here.

Vocalist Blaine Hammond utilizes a mildly gritty mid-range for the most part, though he also croons or busts out the occasional deathly roar (somewhat reminiscent of what Chuck Billy has been doing since "Low"). While his range is limited, he utilizes what he has and maintains control, only breaking out the higher notes on brief screams that are effective thanks to their sparing use. Some of the cadences that Hammond uses remind me of what Heri Joensen of Tyr does, which is intriguing. There's a healthy does of backing "ooh ooohs" to add to that ancient, other-worldly vibe and the choruses feature good use of multi-tracked backing vocals. Riffs are a very straightforward, ranging from frenetic, bouncy thrash (tossing in a false harmonic now and then) to gigantic power chords. The tempos shift from quiet acoustics to plodding to stomping to rampaging down a mountain (spear held out in front). Lead guitarist Ryan Gallagher provides melodic solos with little flash but nice substance. It's a utilitarian band of musicians, but they are completely successful in creating the style - any jaw-dropping shredding would just get in the way.

Guitar production is dirty and thick while the mix pushes the vocals way up front - not an ideal situation for me, but it sure sounds old school. Bass is often hard to discern in the mud, but there is a healthy bottom end (and we all like healthy bottoms, right?). Many of the songs are long, the average being a bit over five minutes with the shortest clocking in at 4:18 and the opener a too-long 8:45. The attractive 12-page booklet contains the lyrics, one page of credits/thanks and several pages of decent Photoshop graphics. Lyrics deal with topics ranging from rueful introspection to the fantastic (lots of demons flying about - naturally). All in all this is a solid debut and recommended to fans of heavier US power metal - in particular, I think those into Iced Earth, Jag Panzer and maybe "Ride the Lightning"-era Metallica would dig what Shadow Demon is up to (those are reference points; Shadow Demon isn't a clone of any group).

Standout Tracks

   The Dark Citadel: Part 1 (The Shifter)
   Sea of Oblivion
   ...And the Meek
   Umbris Mortis

D.Berger