Artist: All Things Fallen
Album Title: Shadow Way
Label: Blackoak Records
Date of Release: 3 June 2022
When I received the email alerting me to this album, the content of the press release had me salivating like a starving lion in the Serengeti. Featuring a fantastic line-up comprised of multi-instrumentalist Markus Sigfridsson (Darkwater, Harmony), drummer Leo Margarit (Pain Of Salvation), vocalist Erik Tordsson (End Of September), and bassist Raphael Dafras (Edu Falaschi, Almah), the email then went on to tell me that this was an album for fans of Evergrey, Soen, Pain Of Salvation, and Darkwater.
Imagine my levels of excitement at the very prospect of this all being true. Now imagine the levels of disappointment on discovering that ‘Shadow Way’ does not live up to the grandstand billing that it has received. I should have known, because press releases are more often than not full of nonsense, aimed at deliberately pulling us in to get us to review the latest release on the record label’s roster. But even so, I have to say that this record has been one of the biggest disappointments of the year so far.
I must be careful to be transparent at this point though. My disappointment is not because the music is of a poor quality, or because the performances or the production let it down. That’s not the case at all. My disappointment comes from the fact that I had such lofty expectations given the clientele involved, and because of the promise that this would appeal to fans of the aforementioned bands. As you’re all fully aware, I adore Evergrey, but on ‘Shadow Way’, I hear almost nothing that would warrant the reference. And the same goes for Pain Of Salvation and Darkwater; just because the band features members of these bands, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the output will sound similar. The closest reference point would be Soen I would suggest, although this is pushing things a little.
To my ears, vocalist Erik Tordsson gives the music more of a power metal sheen, as his delivery is generally within a higher register and he can wail with impressive power when the music demands it. All Things Fallen are definitely progressive, but the chosen synth sounds lend it much more of a classic, almost 70s vibe at times. Each of the musicians brings their undoubted skills to the party too, with the drumming of Leo Margarit and bassist Raphael Dafras together making the biggest impact upon me. If I’m honest, Tordsson is an acquired taste that I do warm to, whilst I feel more than a little disappointed by the chosen guitar tones and delivery. His solos are out of the top drawer and I am in no way criticising his technical ability, but I just wish that the riffs of Markus Sigfridsson were given more crunch, more power, and more menace. I also wish they were sometimes more front and centre, as they can get lost within the mix at times. On songs like ‘Desert Of The Real’, they make much more of an impact and if you were to listen to this track in isolation, you’d think my previous comments to be misguided or way off the mark. But it’s not always the case throughout ‘Shadow Way’ unfortunately.
The biggest failing of the music, however, is a real lack of a ‘wow’ factor. For all of the top-quality musicianship, I can’t help but feel that the songs themselves fail to stack up. Whether it’s the chosen melodies, or a number of other small things, such as the unnecessary bloated lengths of some of the tracks, I don’t warm to as much of the material as I want to, or think that I should. It’s frustrating and maddening in equal measure. I find myself listening again, certain that I must have missed something because ‘surely a line-up this talented won’t create something that I find disappointing?’ Unfortunately, I am still to have that epiphany – that’s the reason why this review comes after the release, as I wanted to give it as long as possible before writing anything about it. But the time has come.
One of the more engaging songs is first up in the form of ‘The Sentinel’. The bass immediately catches my ear, rumbling with real authority. I like the stomping groove that is carried throughout the song too, as well as a cracking lead guitar solo, and the key change that crops up in the second half of the song. But as with my comments above, I want the guitar riffs to be more prominent than they are, and I also find that the bold keys detract just a little from my overall enjoyment.
By far and away, the best two songs on ‘Shadow Way’ are ‘Pandemonium’ and ‘Desert Of The Real’ and if more of the material was on a par with these tracks, then we’d be staring at a very different review right now. In the case of the former, it features some gorgeous violins courtesy of guest Maria Grigoryeva, but it is easily the strongest in terms of melody and memorable songwriting. The chorus is hook-filled, the swagger is infectious, and the guitars seem more integral to this song than others – when I listen to this track, I really smile, but I also silently bemoan a case of what could have been. I also like the funky guitar-led section somewhere at the heart of the song which injects a little variety into proceedings.
‘Desert Of The Real’ is the enigma is that it features prominent keys that I don’t always like elsewhere, and is the longest at over eight minutes. Nevertheless, the vague Middle Eastern flavour is a nice touch, whilst the song also features some stunning, yet subtle melodies that grow with every passing listen, to the point where I actually want to listen to the song on multiple occasions, sometimes even back-to-back.
I could try to dissect more of this album but, to be honest, I know when I’m beaten. I am absolutely certain that many of you will find much more enjoyment than I do with ‘Shadow Way’ because as I’ve said before, the music is far from being poor. If you’re one of those then I am genuinely pleased for you. For me though, aside from a couple of really good tracks, I will probably be shelving the record and not adding All Things Fallen to my ever-expanding CD collection I’m afraid.
The Score of Much Metal: 72%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: