'Dead in the Shadow' by To Speak of Wolves searches in the darkness. Four out of five stars.
Screamo-tinged metal band To Speak of Wolves released their latest full-length album last week on Friday, July 21.
Possibly their heaviest album musically, Dead in the Shadow wades through lyrics of bitterness, fears, hate, anger, frustration, confusion, suffering, justice, faith and personal wounds. For the most part, the band doesn't offer explicit answers to the struggles alluded to in the album. Rather, they reveal what it feels like to experience those struggles and explore where to go from there. The lyrics and vocals on Dead in the Shadow are a couple of the album's best qualities. It's well-written, and vocalist William "Gage" Speas exhibits a high quality and notable variety of screams.
The first song, "Haunt Me," is a fairly engaging opener and effectively showcases the overall sound of the rest of the album. It's followed by "I Had to Let Go," which is a highlight on Dead in the Shadow. It's one of the most aggressive tracks and includes rapid beats and fast screaming that alternate with low, subdued singing.
Dead in the Shadow is distinctly cohesive in its overall soundscape from front to back. An interesting musical theme in the album is the hollow-sounding textures characteristic of different sections in multiple songs. This could be an approach that To Speak of Wolves uses to invoke a sense of sympathetic emptiness in the listener. In addition, the album features click-clack, tick-tock percussion noises scattered throughout the tracks. This brings to mind the sounds of an analog clock; it could hint at the eluding illusion of time and the fact that we are essentially powerless drifters in its current.
Two of the most memorable songs on Dead in the Shadow are "Enemies to Everyone" and "The Impaler," the latter of which is preceded by the transition track "Adrift Again" as a lead-in. "Enemies to Everyone" is the first song on the album to have a chorus of clean vocals, and it's real catchy. "The Impaler" starts out with in-your-face screams and also has a catchy chorus. It includes the unforgettable lyric, "I am the impaler. You chose wrong. I am the impaler. Hear my song," repeated by Speas in drawn-out screams near the conclusion of the song.
Dead in the Shadow's final track, "I Am the Shovel / I Am the Grave," reminds the listener of To Speak of Wolves' ability to leave a lasting impression with an album's last song. Coming full circle, this song has a somewhat haunting feel to it that brings to mind the title of the first track, "Haunt Me." It especially stands out compared to the rest of the album since it features acoustic guitar strumming and subtle strings. In what seems like an metaphorical way of telling about considering to abandon faith, Speas sings "I am the shovel. I am the grave. I'm looking for trouble with a smile on my face. I'll bring the rope if you could bring my faith. Yeah, I'll tie the knot if you could throw it away."
With Dead in the Shadow, To Speak of Wolves delivers a dark, yet almost enlightening, album that is worth multiple listens. While it may not be the band's obvious best album, Dead in the Shadow is a work of art that could easily be a favorite for many. Those who enjoy harder music in general should take the opportunity to check it out.