Written by: Blackie Skulless
Once in a blue moon, I’ll come across something that I find to be decent at best, worthwhile enough to revisit, and each subsequent revisit makes me appreciate it a little more. The Chilean heavy metal outfit Shadows fit that exact situation. Without the backing familiarity of their EP, going into this blind yielded many surprises. While in the realm of “traditional metal,” I would struggle to call their debut Out For Blood traditional at all. The term fits in regards to the riff style, but there’s really a lot going on here, giving it that effect of growing more addictive every time I hit it.
In a formulaic sense, this is everything I could ask for. Rough and raw rhythms with grating burrs make up an otherwise melodic foundation, backed by some thunderous basslines and eerie synths to muffle coarse edges. Emphasis on the melody, though, because almost every lead is surprisingly catchy amidst a foggy haze that matches the obvious occult-loving album art. It should come as no surprise that influences of doom metal make a pretty aggressive appearance. This is more evident in the presentation, however, not so much in the riff structure; very seldom do we find doomy riff stomps.
What made Out For Blood so hard to grip at first was the vocals, forcing everything I’ve described thus far to carry all consistency. What I mean is that not only are they very unconventional, but they change forms often. One minute, you have blackened, Venom-like grunts in the likes of “The Ripper,” before the very next song borders darker glam roots in “Sacrifice.” Hell, this song’s poppy intro sounds like something that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Dokken album at its roots, but the aggressive production and thick layers blend it right in without hesitation, similarly heard on opener “Nightstalker.” Don’t expect it to stop there, however, because here comes “Into The Nightmare” with a layer of King Diamond, channeling operatic chants into the same riff-tastic batter beside blackened vocals.
For how much happens, this is a very short runtime, being here and gone before you realize it. Clocking in just past the half-hour mark, all of these attacks are brief with some spooky transition tunes to help with the gradual shifts in delivery. It’s no accident that “Maniac” is sandwiched between two, needing the descent effect into such a dark number. On the other hand, “Forgotten Rites” may come close to the speed metal range, using ripping solos and rumbling drum beats for the harder edge, which bodes well on a quicker punch album that seeks variety. Closer “Alissa” returns to the aforementioned glammy field that could almost work as a soft song if, again, it weren’t for the overly hard production on the riffs and the atmosphere. Making such a thing work isn’t something I would say goes over well very often.
There’s a good chance I’m over-praising this work, and I can see some taking issue not only with the vocal inconsistency and the general idea, but I really enjoy how refreshing Shadows feels. Occult-themed heavy metal outfits are a dime a dozen, and most of the time I still eat up that whole dozen. The fact that this effort took me longer to appreciate is a good thing, because it actually feels like something unique and different from a genre I seldom complain about anyway. My advice is that if you struggle on your first listen, listen to it again.
Shadows - Out For Blood was released May 19th, 2023 via Sentient Ruin Laboratories. Find it here!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that wakes us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.