Sound — 8
Shadows Fall have left the major label kingdom after one album 2007's Threads of Life, which was released via Atlantic Records- and they are back in the indie system, sort of. The band's business associations haven't dampened or hampered their metal spirit, as Retribution retains all the elements that helped propel the band to Big Three status, something it has shared with Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God, in the revival of the American Heavy Metal that kicked off in the earlier half of the decade. Retribution is classic Shads: shreddy, solo'y, thrashy. The band's twin guitar attack has always been what's special about Shadows Fall and Matt Bachand and Jon Johnny Rock n Roll Donais are doing what they do best and that's popping off the riffs that serve as the foundation of the band's sound. Still I Rise pummels relentlessly with the thunderous drum acrobatics of Jason Bittner, but the song also shifts gears into melodic territory for the chorus, effectively balancing heavy and accessible at the same time, while King of Nothing is tried and true Shadows Fall, ripe with headbanging moments and pure metal power. It's also got a guest vocal from Lamb of God's Randy Blythe, furthering upping the metal ante. The album isn't sterile or clean, either; it's the rough, raw edges that make the album so mellifluous to a metalhead's ringing, tinnitis-affected ears.
Lyrics — 9
Brian Fair, he of the ass-length dreadslocks, is like a younger James Hetfield, able to employ three distinct levels or tiers of vocals. He has a scream, a clean vocal and a mid-level, gruff range that is just another weapon in the band's layered arsenal of sound. He's prone to introspection in his lyrics he is the self-professed metal hippie and all- and Retribution doesn't halt that hallmark. Fair's lyrics have always had a bit of a spiritual and enlightened bend to them and he's keeping in line with what we expect from him. It's as though Fair's lyrical declarations are the calm amid a storm of metal guitar work and a booming rhythm section.
Overall Impression — 8
Shadows Fall have always planted one foot in the past and the other in the modern era. They're as easily influenced by classic Anthrax and Megadeth, even Slayer, as well as they are by current-day Metallica. While their sound is rooted in the long-gone-by heyday of thrash, the band isn't doing the retro thing and nor are they a throwback. Fair's vocals allow the band to sound fresh, as does the guitarwork. The band doesn't spent too much time checking the rear view for inspiration, but they do respect the bands of that generation on Retribution.