Graveshadow – The Uncertain Hour Review

As I write these words, it is the day before the release of The Uncertain Hour, the third full-length release from the USA’s Graveshadow. Ordinarily, I’d have wanted these words penned, edited, and submitted well before today, but my unenviable memory led me to select this album for review knowing full well I’d be 3,000 kilometres1 away from the laptop I’d need to actually submit the review on its day of release. I tried to console myself by saying that the odds of me picking up a symphonic metal album for review that I’d actually be motivated to write about on a literal vacation out of the country2 were fairly low, the promo pit being the promo pit and all, and in this too, I was wrong. So here I sit, baking away, writing away, and generally being wrong about things—but check out The Uncertain Hour anyway.

The Uncertain Hour, over the course of fifty minutes or so, launches the listener through a galloping field of riffs, leads, and triumphant melodies in one of the better samples of symphonic power metal I’ve heard lately. Upbeat, catchy, and well-written, it has all of the makings of a grower, and talent to match. Electric solos (“Shadow Battles”), restrained keyboard use (“The Swordsman”), and a lot of vocal flexibility (“Beautiful End”) contribute to an album that rarely feels stale or dull and can keep up the pace for most of its runtime. All of this contributes to a great heavy metal foundation. The album is listed as being for fans of Beast in Black, among others, and it’s as good a comparison as any for the music. At times, it even reminds me of Blind Guardian—they so get the choruses right here.

But the vocals are a completely different story—normally I try to avoid devoting entire paragraphs to a single musician in a band, especially when they’re the vocalist, but I have to make an exception—new vocalist Rachl “Raxx” Quinn is a monster behind the mic, and her soaring, versatile performance is a true highlight of The Uncertain Hour. Her delivery in the choruses of “Solider of 34” and “Gwynnbleidd” will stay in your head long after the songs pass, and she is in many ways the power (“Damsel’s Finesse”), pop-factor (“Sea of Apparitions”) and catchiness that helps set this album apart. In her quieter moments, as on “The Swordsman,” she reminds me of Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), but for the most part is channeling Brittney Slayes (Unleash the Archers) to enviable heights, so much so that the phrase “Unleash the Archers with keys?” appears in one of my notes for this review.3

If there’s one place Graveshadow struggles here—and I do think there’s only one—it’s in that there isn’t a fixed mark for how heavy The Uncertain Hour is. Generally speaking, the album is well-produced, but the rhythm guitars and bass are given only just enough prominence to make the album feel “heavy.” It’s seldom very aggressive, and Raxx’s vocals, alongside strong but uncredited growls, aren’t able to make up for that. As a result, songs like “The Swordsman” and “Vengeance of Envy” feel like they’re missing something as they try to lean into aggression. The meaty drums and vibrant keys are much better suited for the catchy, adventuring power metal Graveshadow excels at. It all sounds good, but it doesn’t always sound great.

I wish I’d gotten to this one earlier—The Uncertain Hour is a beautiful album. It’s fun, vibrant, heavy, and seriously catchy, with well-written and well-performed moments dominating the album. If it was just a little more consistent, and maybe edited down a touch, I would have nothing negative to say at all. As is, I can simply recommend it happily and heartily to fans of power metal everywhere, and look forward to the next one with exuberance.4

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: M-Theory Audio
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 15th, 2022

Show 4 footnotes

  1. I know we insist on spelling some words wrong strangely around here, but does that extend to units of distance as well? It’s 1,865 miles if so.
  2. And my first in over a decade as well.
  3. I almost never take notes as a reviewer, but felt bad about the whole vacation/late review thing and wanted to be extra-thorough-er here
  4. Incidentally, sorry about all of the footnotes added to this review. After receiving a rare accolade for his good reviewsmanship, I asked Dr. A.N. Grier how I might be able to mimic his success. I’ll admit, I didn’t listen to his answer (I was distracted by a bluebird), but he said something about taking notes, which I assumed meant using lots of footnotes—so I’m well on my way to becoming Employee of the Month here.
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