Nightshadow – Strike Them Dead Review

Sometimes a band comes along that seems to have rummaged through your brain to find all the stuff you love and then cobbled together an album designed to appeal to you specifically. San Diego’s Nightshadow are currently under suspicious for such a mind ransacking as I spin their full-length debut Strike Them Dead. With a sound steeped in 80s speed and trve metal then coated in a thick layer of technical, neo-classical polish, Nightshadow leave no wank unwanked in their effort to bring high-octane metal to the filthy masses. If I had to describe them concisely, it would be as a sped up, really pissed off Witherfall. This results in feisty, flashy metal anthems that go for the throat first, and the brain if time permits. This is fine by me, and much of what the band does is quite exciting, but there are things in the night that bump back, preventing this from becoming the album my mind truly wanted.

No time is wasted as the band launches the assault in stunning fashion with the neo-classically infused speed metal of opener “Legend.” You get a million things thrown at you at once, with the stunning guitar-work of Danny Fang and Nick Harrington front and center burning the land and scorching the stars. It’s like the first Witherfall opus but faster, meaner, and more noodle-heavy. Frontman Brian Dell keeps pace giving a commanding vocal performance, sounding like the bastard offspring of Savatage‘s Jon Oliva and Warrior‘s Perry McCarty. The guitars swoop and strafe and the vocals roar for a stirring, attention grabbing tune that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. They dial up the aggression for “Witch Queen,” which is heavier and more in line with Visigoth and Eternal Champion. To say I love this tune is to damn it with faint praise. If I could marry a song, this would be my betrothed and we would be happy together.1 The chants of “kill, kill, kill the Witch Queen” backed by Yngwie-esque noodling is especially awesome and a thing of beauty. It isn’t until fourth song, “Love and Vengeance” that problems start to leak through the bejeweled facade. While there’s plenty to love about the mega-cheesy story of a grief-stricken dragon laying waste to a city to avenge his murdered crush, its nearly 8-minute runtime is a study in excess and simply too much of a good thing. I still enjoy it though, and when the time comes for fiery wengeance, it reminds me of Manowar‘s immortal revenge saga “Dark Avenger.”

From there on we find terminal bloat infecting a lot of Strike Them Dead. Songs that should be 5 minutes are 8 (“False Truths”) and songs that should be 4 minutes are 6 (“Strike Them Dead”). While the extra time is loaded with insanely technical playing and more fretboard heroics than any three Firewind albums, it has the cumulative effect of beating the listener down to the point where you don’t want to hear any more scales running marathons. With the album crossing the hour mark, it all becomes too much to take, and by the time closer “Mistress of the Pit” (clearly an ode to Madam X) arrives for a final 7-minute carpet bombing, I’ve got nothing left to give. Making matters worse, the song quality lessens as the album rolls along. While only the closer is a total bust, “Storm Bringer” is a bit flat and uninspired and “Blood Penance” is only slightly better. When the band gets it all right, it’s like a metal explosion powerful enough to blot out the Sun. They’re just too long-winded and inconsistent this time out.

This is a mega-talented band. The guitarists are insanely good and flex their chop muscles every chance they get, with reams of notes crammed in your ear holes without mercy or restraint. If you can imagine Yngwie in a speed metal band, this is what you’d get, and I hereby dub their style “Nero-classical” because they keep wailing away as everything burns around them.2  I love guitar excess, but there’s so much of it here that it becomes a lifestyle choice rather than a creative decision. Brian Dell is impressive in his own right. He throws himself into his performance with unbridled enthusiasm, shouting, screaming, crooning, and wailing like a banshee. When he gets aggressive he adopts the same raspy roar as Jon Oliva, which I love, and he can actually sing when he wants too.

Nightshadow have the talent level where they need it. Now they just need to write more consistent tunes. If they can do that and get a handle on self-editing, they will be unstoppable. Glitches aside, Strike Them Dead is a whole lot of fun with some amazing songs that reek of Herculean potential. I’m a fan and hope that next time all this Godly potential is realized and then hurled down upon us from on high.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Release
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 7th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. The line “Did you shed a tear when you usurped my crown?” is an all timer.
  2. The promo package has an amusing notation about Danny Fang: “Danny has a tendency to noodle on his guitar a lot. We can be just hanging outside after a rehearsal and he still has his guitar (not plugged in) and just keeps playing away, kind of like Skwisgaar from Metalocalypse.”
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