I feel a bit guilty really. I think the person behind death-metal project "Only a Shadow Remains" asked me to review the projects previous release almost a year ago, and after numerous "maybe I'll do it next" style statements to myself, it turns out I'd still not gotten around to it, when, lo and behold, someone asked me to review "their new death metal album", and it turned out to be the same project. First and foremost, I'd like to say sorry for not getting round to it the first time, and secondly, I hope to produce a more detailed and thoughtful review than I would have done a year ago, to make up for it.
"Premeditated" is the second full-length release by Only Shadows Remain, and is overtly of the death-metal persuasion. A short concept album, with the delightfully twisted premise, as the creator puts it "[...] around the idea of my wife being a serial killer.", rendering the album thematically inclusive of many of the traditional themes of death-metal. The album holds a lot of this true in terms of sound, too; Whilst noticeably modern in terms of production, which, might I add, is very tastefully-polished for the work of one man who was, during the process was in "[a] barracks room while being stationed overseas", which makes the effort which went to create the album all the more admirable. I digress. The music on the album has a fairly old-school vibe, with chunky, but not excessively brutal riffs, which are chiefly memorable. There's a hint of the more modern, twisted and technical styles of death-metal incorporated too, which I find gives the album a very appreciable balance between the old and the new. A strong sense of groove pervades in many places, leading to a level of catchiness and often makes the music more energetic and invigorating, which is often something which I struggle to pick up from straight, no-frills death metal. The album manages to feel consistently fresh too, in their compactness; as often happens with one-man projects, the songs are rather on the short side, but instead of detracting from the album's quality, it means that the songs don't drag on for longer than they need to; their length is perfectly correlated to their content.
As well as being inclusive of many of death-metal's favoured playing styles, the album also journeys widely through the tempos, with slower, crushing pieces, and faster, near-rabid sounding songs like "Torture-Murder" which has a lot in common, in it's crunchy, solid guitar, with the faster songs of bands like Hail of Bullets - the slower songs also remind me of such, with a similar relentless swagger and murky, brooding energy, like thunder-clouds on the horizon. While not exactly innovative or unique, in the sense that the music certainly doesn't take death-metal anywhere particularly new, the album as a whole has a really solid feel; It's undeniably a good death-metal album, with a consistency, flow and attention to detail which highlights it definitely the product of effort, a labour of love; I get the sense that the person who made the album really, genuinely cares about it's quality, as a good musician, or any kind of craftsman, should. The riffs are reassuringly robust and enjoyable to listen to, and the solid, presumably programmed (programmed really well, might I add) drums give the album a notably tough, heavy, percussion section, with really honest sounding drums, especially considering their artificiality. It's probably simplest to describe the album as a sturdy, well-crafted and reliable death metal album. One of the most coherent and cohesive underground albums I've listened to in a long time.
I should probably have reviewed an "Only a Shadow Remains" album a long time ago, because, quite frankly, I really enjoyed this one. Incidentally, the proceeds if you were to buy the album go to charity, so, if you want to be a good person, and get some death-metal to show for it, you can't go wrong with this release. Anyway, a short burst of death metal, and a thoroughly enjoyable album.
I'm giving this 8/10.
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