Sound — 9
Shadows Fall certainly has been recognized in the past few years for its exceptional musicianship, and that is driven home all the more when listening to a live album like the band's latest Madness In Manila: Shadows Fall Live In The Philippines. The top-notch audio mix is really the ace in the hole, and there are moments during the 15-song setlist that you forget that it's actually a live concert. The crowd's cheers are actually muted/muffled a bit more than what you might expect, but fans are probably purchasing the CD to hear the music not all the screamers in the audience. Madness In Manila was recorded at the Pulp Summer Slam on April 30, 2009, and it marks the band's second concert release. If you already own 2005's The Art of Touring and worried that Shadows Fall is just rehashing the same old material heard on that release, you can rest assured that for the most part the tracklist is fresh. Even further, there are five more songs on Madness In Manila than on The Art of Touring. It's always tough to say whether live albums are truly needed (or even wanted) by the bulk of fans, but Madness In Manila does show Shadows Fall in a positive light for the most part. Lead guitarist Jonathan Donais and drummer Jason Bittner are easily the standouts the entire way through, with the audio mix allowing their amazing work to never get overshadowed by the concert setting. Donais' solo work on tracks like The Light That Blinds (which also features a gorgeous acoustic intro) is simply astounding and in many ways makes the entire album worthwhile. Bittner is likewise a machine, with his double bass pedal just bursting through the speakers. The interaction that vocalist Brian Fair has with the audience is your typical metal-rules-supreme, but you have to give the singer credit for interacting with the audience much more than some acts out there. One of the more entertaining moments arrives in one of the later tracks Redemption, in which Fair asks the audience to sing along or if they don't know the words to just yell some random crazy bullshit. Definitely amusing commentary, he provides. In terms of performance, other highlights include the brutal Failure Of The Devout (which recalls classic heavy metal), grooving Thoughts Without Words, and band's self-proclaimed epic Crushing Belial.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrical content will be familiar to fans, but Fair does make a point to emphasize during the concert that his band is not one of whiners who obsess over broken hearts. For the most part, Shadows Fall lives up to that promise. Whether it's the social/racial reflection in War, proclaiming each person's unlimited strength in The Power Of I And I, or the majestic storytelling of Crushing Belial, there are few moments when a weak word comes out of Fair's mouth.
Overall Impression — 7
The overall impression of the music is a positive one, but the DVD that accompanies the CD isn't the most compelling. The editing for the Summer Slam is slightly frantic, but you could argue that it's fitting for the music. The bonus footage includes more live footage from Korea, the Philippines, and Japan, but much of those clips are grainy and shot far away. It's the main feature that contains the highest quality. In all, the DVD gets a passing grade because it's mean to accompany the CD as more of a bonus, but it fails to leave a huge impression thanks to the less-than-ideal videography.