After a decade of staying true to their roots, the odds are finally in SHADOWS FALL’s favor. Armed with a killer new disc, major-label support and a recent surge in metal’s popularity, there seems to be no limit to what they can accomplish.

Story: Jonah Bayer

It’s official: Metal is back. Over the past few years, the genre has been slowly gaining momentum to the point where the buzz surrounding long-lost descendents of acts like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest is now as loud as a pinch-harmonic squeal blaring from a full-stack of Marshalls. The evidence is everywhere: Lamb Of God on Late Night With Conan O’Brien; Slayer’s recent Grammy victory (an award that went to nü-metal mooks Korn in 2003); and the meteoric rise of acts like Trivium, Killswitch Engage and Avenged Sevenfold.

At the forefront of this movement are Shadows Fall, who may be the genre’s strongest hope to bring blazing huge riffs, guitar solos and unforgettable live shows back into mainstream consciousness. In fact, the band couldn’t pick a better time to release their sixth album and major-label debut, Threads Of Life. Equal parts groove-metal, metalcore, thrash and even glam, the disc finds these scene veterans bypassing metal’s rigid rules to pen the album they wanted to hear. Which, when you think about it, may be the only constant in their decade-long career.

“One of the big inspirations for this record was touring alongside Iron Maiden on Ozzfest in 2005,” vocalist Brian Fair explains from his home in Springfield, Massachusetts, with regards to Threads Of Life’s more melodious moments. “Every vocal was a hook, and just seeing people singing along to these choruses made us go, ‘Wow, this is what metal can be.’ It inspired us to go in and write from our influences and let that side of us come out as much as possible this time around.”

Lyrically, the album establishes Fair’s ability to take the clichés of war and fantasy found in much metal to new levels of artistry and intelligence. On “Forevermore,” he sings, “Every human life will overlap and intertwine/Create the fabric and the destiny of all mankind.” Although the album certainly has its vitriolic moments, ultimately the astute English major has more in common with metaphysical writers like Kosmic Consciousness Ken Wilber than, say, Phil Anselmo.

“I have to write from where I am at that point in time,” he explains when asked about where he draws his inspiration (lately he’s been re-reading novels by Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut). “I could never write about blood and gore and guts and brutality because I’ve never hacked anyone to pieces,” he adds with a laugh, “so it’d be really hard for me to relate to that.” Fair is also quick to point out that although some listeners may not fully grasp the philosophical implications of his writing, well, that’s okay, too. “Our fans may not get some of the references on this record I throw in about Hindu mythology, but that’s fine,” he explains. “It really doesn’t matter; I’m sure I’ve misinterpreted lyrics from other bands my whole life,” he states diplomatically, “and I think it’s great if people come up with their own meanings.”

However, Fair’s lyrical and vocal prowess aren’t the only sonic benchmarks on Threads Of Life. In fact, the band-which also includes guitarists Jonathan Donais and Matt Bachand, bassist Paul Romanko and drummer Jason Bittner-stepped things up significantly, from the songwriting to the arrangements to the solos. “I can’t tell you how many rewrites we’ve had on this disc,” admits Bachand with a sigh, explaining that for the first time since the band’s inception, they purposely stayed off the road for more than a few weeks at a time to write. (In fact, the band cancelled a headlining tour with Killswitch Engage and Bury Your Dead in late October due to recording obligations.)

“We did not want to make a safe record,” Fair continues. “There is a lot of really subtle guitar layering and slight little melodies that you might miss at first, so hopefully, as people listen to it more, they’ll get more out of it. The biggest goal of this record was to get the sound we had in our head to translate onto tape.” The singer sounds like he’s describing a Radiohead disc instead of an album which has a Kafka-esque song (“Just Another Nightmare”) about a character who wakes up in the morning inexplicably covered with blood. But the only way to accurately transpose the sound in the band members’ heads was to make an album that was as varied as their collective influences.

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Click HERE for the offical AP review of Threads Of Life.