Shadow of Intent have a lot in common with your typical power metal band. Florid guitar lines, cheesy orchestration, slick production, and ridiculous space fantasy lyrics (pulled straight from the Halo video games) are elements you’d expect for a band of central European hair-conditioner-connoisseurs. While these are all key to Shadow of Intent‘s unique style, they’re really only half of what’s going on in Reclaimer. After all, not a lot of power metal albums feature guest spots from the vocalists of Ingested, Slaughter to Prevail, Infant Annihilator, and Lorna Shore. Spin your typical euro-cheese disc and there’s nary a pig squeal, breakdown or slam in earshot. So what to call Shadow of Intent‘s maximalism? One is tempted to string together a handful of adjectives before the “-core” suffix and reel in disgust, but there’s a simpler solution; this is the brutal version of power metal.
Last year’s Primordial put Shadow of Intent on the map. The band’s uncompromising sound was not only inventive, but adventurous and brilliantly gripping. Though an obvious entry into progressive and technical deathcore1 a la Born of Osiris, Winds of Plague and Rings of Saturn, Primordial felt – and still feels – like few other albums. Its melodies are catchy in the extreme, its tone flat-out epic, and its songs are some of the most fun and gripping that the year had to offer. Reclaimer continues the formula while building on Primordial‘s success; spacious melodies, huge breakdowns, guitar acrobatics at every myriad turn, and a wide array of guest vocalists to compliment Ben Duerr’s already formidable pipes.
After an epic stage-setting “The Return” picks up where Reclaimer left off – speedy melodeath riffing, melodic leads, and a gripping chorus with double-tracked harsh/clean vocals. It’s immediately clear that Shadow of Intent have not skipped a beat since their last album despite moving from a two-man bedroom project to a fully-realized five piece. In some ways, Reclaimer has retained the feeling of being a two-man show, and it’s the guitar and vocal work which dominate the album, and while the accompaniment to the Weisman/Duerr duo proves capable, it is unmistakably an accompaniment.
But this is hardly an issue. Chris Wisemann just never stops delivering quality riffs and leads, compelling chord progressions, and catchy hooks. Closer “The Tartarus Impalement” stacks wandering melodies against grooves with an almost samba swagger, and unlike a lot of shredders out there, Wisemann often ducks out, putting the vocals and orchestration front and center. For his part, Ben Duerr provides a staggering diversity of vocals from hardcore cleans to black metal rasps, tough-guy deathcore grunts and slammy gutturals. “The Prophet’s Beckoning” utilizes just about all he has to give2 plus a little help from Lorna Shore‘s Tom Barber, adding up to make one of the album’s catchiest and all-around best efforts.
Shadow of Intent‘s music may not be for everyone, but it certainly does their source material justice. Much like a Halo game, Reclaimer successfully blends absurd violence with unmistakable flair and a sense of constant adventure. It’s fun that straddles the line between pure adrenaline and careful crafting, and though it comes with its share of tropes imperfections, it proves remarkably easy to just kick back and enjoy. It achieves its intensity through a freewheeling George Lucas-ian sense of scope rather than the intricate Kubrick-esque attention to detail. Reclaimer won’t go over your head – but it is sure to move that head in relation to your torso.
Reclaimer combines the anthemic warrior cheesiness of power metal with the lunkheaded heaviness of deathcore and the musical restlessness of progressive death metal; it should be a mess, but instead of delivering disappointment, it provides more fun than just about any album this year. Even at nearly an hour long, the only song that outstays its welcome is the comparatively one-note “The Forsaken Effigy.” As an album, as a collection of songs, and as a showcase of talent, Reclaimer delivers everything you could ask of it.
Tracks to Check: “The Prophet’s Beckoning,” “The Tartarus Impalement,” “The Mad Tyrant’s Betrayal”