Symphonic deathcore act Shadow Of Intent clearly possess an element that sets them apart from the masses. The Halo-themed project released their first EP in 2014 as a collaboration between guitarist Chris Wiseman and vocalist Ben Duerr. However, it was their début full-length, 2016’s Primordial, which gained the duo an impressive following without having played a single live show or having label support. Barely a year later, the duo has returned with Reclaimer, which was released on April 28.
From the first track on, it is apparent that the group has honed their orchestrations with the help of Kelsie Hargita (ex-Abigail Williams, ex-Collapse Of The Empire). Even more obvious a step forward is the production, courtesy of Buster Odeholm (Humanity’s Last Breath, Born of Osiris), whose mixing and mastering presents the act’s detailed destruction in a way that was somewhat lacking on Primordial.
“We Descend…” sets a dramatic stage for the record. Shadow Of Intent do not follow the usual orchestral introduction that has become so commonplace in the genre, however; pounding drums, huge guitars and Duerr’s inhuman voice join the strings and keys before seguing perfectly into “The Return”, which offers its own unique element: singing. Wiseman contributes a shouty hook to the song’s chorus in manner not so different from Born of Osiris’ Joe Buras. Some notes fall a little flat, but the group maintains intensity while offering a more melodic component to their destructive deathcore. This vocal style returns with improved results later on in the record.
The first half of the twelve-track record alternates between orchestral elements and Lorna Shore-esque blackened technical deathcore. The singles “The Horror Within” and “The Heretic Prevails” (despite its too mechanical piano) are exemplary of the group’s epic, aggressive sound. Wiseman masterfully conjures up epic strings, impressive leads, technical riffs, ominous keys and crushing breakdowns, while Duerr’s vocals never fall short of horrifying and hostile.
It is this vocal performance that really calls into question the presence of the guests on Reclaimer. “The Catacombs” features Infant Annihilator’s Dickie Allen and Ingested’s Jason Evans. To focus on the combined ferocity of three vocalists, the song features a dialed back, heavy-handed approach that is unfortunately the least interesting, most generic element of an otherwise engaging record. Considering Duerr’s bar-setting performance, it seems unnecessary to compromise the group’s sound to facilitate guests that do little, if anything, Duerr isn’t already more than capable of. Thankfully, the songs featuring Lorna Shore’s Tom Barber (“The Prophet’s Beckoning”) and Slaughter To Prevail‘s Aleksander Shikolai (“The Gathering Of All”) maintain the group’s innovative spirit while accommodating the guests’ performances.
The closing section of the record is a welcome paradigm shift for the group, exploring atmosphere and melody in an in-depth and dramatic way. “The Great Schism” is an instrumental song showcasing Wiseman’s technical and compositional capacity with a mix of dizzying instrumental passages and lyrical, emotive leads. This dynamic reprieve sets the stage for the end of the record: “The Tartarus Impalement”. With a motif recalling Primordial’s “The Didact’s Will”, haunting clean guitars explode into blast beats and darting leads. The spoken word section on the song comes across as a little cheesy, but it is a fitting closer nonetheless and one of the most interesting tracks on the record.
Reclaimer seems to capture Shadow Of Intent at a time of augmentation and growth. More concise song structures, improved orchestration, dynamic production and the incorporation of clean singing are all elements that build on Primordial’s impressive base. The group’s talent lies in being inventive, dynamic and unabashedly melodic while maintaining their heaviness, satisfying both fans of straightforward deathcore and more progressive music. Although the occasional cleanly-sung note or spoken word section is less than inspiring and some guest performances seem needless, the album is striking and epic. I have no doubt that Reclaimer will catapult Shadow Of Intent to even greater heights than Primordial, and now, with a live band behind them, I am excited to hear the group bring their technical and symphonic sound to the world’s stages.
Notable Tracks: “We Descend…”; “The Return”; “The Horror Within”; “The Tartarus Impalement”
FFO: Lorna Shore, Infant Annihilator, Into Infernus, Mechina