Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In The Midst Of Lions - Shadows - Formal Review

I've been waiting for this album for a while. I found Christian Deathcore outfit In The Midst Of Lions around the middle of last year, and have been thoroughly enjoying The Heart Of Man and Out Of Darkness since then. They now present us with their third full length album entitled Shadows. The long and short of it? It's great.

If you've been listening to them from the beginning the first thing you'll notice is that the production value is even better. Everything sounds spot on, crisp, and the mixing is great. The vocals sound even more beastly, the guitars are as chunky and heavy as ever, and the drums do a great job filling out the sound.

The album is chock full of breakdowns, which means this album will not change any deathcore haters opinions of the genre, but if you enjoy a solid heavy breakdown and/or deathcore in general, you'll love this. However, If you're not too fond of breakdowns I'd say check it out still as the breakdowns on this album work very well because they tend to fill them out with pinch harmonics or interesting guitar work, and of course awesome gutturals. Maybe it'll change your mind, maybe not.

The guitar work overall seems to have improved from the previous album. There is just as much simplistic chugging as any other deathcore album, but this album is filled out with more lead guitar parts and more interesting solos here and there, which definitely helps with differentiating each song. Also, if you're looking for it, you'll notice you can actually hear the bass guitar in the mix. It doesn't do any real technical wonders, but it's nice to know they take the time to acknowledge their bass player, and it really rounds out the album.

They've previously released two songs, "The Call" and "Cry Of The Oppressed", both are the singles for the album, and honestly they are probably two of the stronger songs on the album. They have their own sound, and are both equally ferocious. Other standout songs would be "False Idols", "Hardened Hearts", "Prepare The Way" and "One For All".

I've already done mini reviews for "The Call" and "Cry Of The Oppressed" so I'll just focus on the other songs.

"False Idols" isn't the most technically impressive song on the album, but it stands out for me because it really sets up the atmosphere of the whole album very well, but sound wise and lyrically. It's dark and critical of Christians conforming to the secular ways of the world, and commands them to "kill their idols".

"Hardened Heats" on the other hand is one of the more technically impressive songs on the album, there a few great solos and the lead guitar is really impressive throughout.

"Prepare The Way" takes the impressive solos they've already done, and one ups it. The first solo in this song is probably my favorite on the album. It just slays. The drums are solid and provide a great beat down in the breakdowns.

The final track on the album "One For All" is a fantastic way to end the album. It's got a quite a few breakdowns, but at the same time there is something very interesting going on with the lead guitar constantly. It starts out with a repetitive pattern that goes throughout the first breakdown, and then shifts the pattern through through the next breakdown, helping both create the atmosphere and keep the listeners attention. The lead guitar doesn't stop through the entire track. It's always doing something interesting. Then about halfway through the track, things pick up pace, and we are hit with a wall of sound that takes us into a quick breakdown, followed by a killer solo.

My complaints are few and not that big of issues. The album as a whole is fantastic and works better as a single album than any of their previous work, but none of the new songs have topped my favorite track from them, which is "Defiance" from the previous album. This isn't a big complaint at all, I just really love what they did with that song. The other thing is that this album is short. It starts and ends before you know it. Not that the songs are bad, some of the tracks actually feel longer than they physically are, but others feel rather short. The majority of the tracks are barely around 3 minutes, with only one track scraping in under 4 minutes. Again, not a huge complaint, but I would have loved an extra song or two to lengthen it out more. They've also seemingly dropped all the clean vocals from their previous work. Which some people might enjoy, others, like myself might miss that aspect.

Any fan of In The Midst Of Lions needs this album. Fans of deathcore, should most definitely check these guys out, you'll enjoy a spin or two. This has a good chance of being on some top deathcore albums of 2011 lists for sure.

(I'm going to try and make a rating system, so this might have a rating on it soon. I figured some people just want to see a number to make a quick decision on whether or not the album is worth their time. So look for that in the future.)