I first read up on Shadows Fall in a brief one page Guitar World article in 2000, discussing the release of their newest album, Of One Blood, which featured the debut of vocalist Brian Fair. I’m pretty sure I still have that magazine in my attic somewhere in a big ass bin of old GW back issues….along with a shit load of Muscle And Fitness mags that I stole from my ex-job…several times. Those security guards were and probably STILL are dumb as SHIT. All these years later I can’t remember why it didn’t get my attention much in a time when Pantera was just a month away from releasing Reinventing The Steel, and shit rap-metal and pussy pop punk was king; but it was most likely because I read that they mixed thrash and death metal with rhythm guitar Matt Bachand’s love of new-age music. At that time I most likely too young or ignorant to understand the idea or even give it a listen to see how the band melded such styles together.
That changed two and a half years later, by which point I was a few weeks into my college career. They once again were featured in Guitar World, this time discussing their newest album, The Art Of Balance. This time around, the article focused on the fact that lead guitar Jon Donais actually shreds his ass off on the record. Both he and Matt discuss their love of all kinds of metal, as well as the fact that at that point in time the ONLY other guitarists known for TRULY shredding it up were Dimebag Darrell and Zakk Wylde. True story. So I was interested. Then, I started seeing ads for the album in magazines featuring quotes from these rave…and I mean RAVE…reviews, calling Shadows Fall “The Next Metallica”, on the heels of the fact that this CD was supposed to have such a purist, old school thrash feel. Ok…I was sold. So I went to Sam Goody, maybe around Christmas time, bought the CD, and my ass was instantly KICKED so hard. The riffage was very thrash. Jason Bittner’s drums were so precise and so freaking fast on his debut recording with the band, Brian Fair really did sound like Ride The Lightning – era James Hetfield. Then, there was those guitar solos. Jon Donais is an AMAZING lead guitar player. There are guys who shred to blow their load by showing off their knowledge of every scale known to man and there are guys like Jon who shred with aggression, technique…and feel. GASP!!! Not too long after this I finally heard Of One Blood and realized what I was missing out on because that record is even MORE brutal than The Art Of Balance!
Sometime in the summer of 2003 I was in a Hot Topic – the second to last time I ever went into one – and I found myself talking to the guy behind the counter, whose name I no longer remember. The discussion turned to musical styles. Around this time, the nu-metal/rap metal train was close to FINALLY crashing, but so-called hardcore with breakdowns that the kiddies would breakdance too was starting to become the new trend. This guy played in a band called Resin and they liked to do those breakdowns. Too bad. But he told me that his band would be opening for Chimaira and Shadows Fall within a month and he had to sell tickets (gee, I wonder where I heard that shit before) and of course I told him I’d go. They were practically THE only modern metal band I was giving the time of day.
So a month later my mom insisted on driving me to L’Amour on 63rd St, most likely because she was a sissy who couldn’t bare the thought of my taking car service there even though I had done it just three months earlier, when I was last there to see Superjoint Ritual. No sooner did I close the door to her car did I hear a voice yell out to me “Hey! I hear you don’t like beatdowns??”. I turned around there was all of Resin. In the middle was their gruff looking singer, who yelled out to me. To the left was the guy from Hot Topic…who clearly had a great memory! So we spoke for a few minutes and they gave me my ticket.
Going into the show, which was an Ozzfest ’03 off-date, the bill was once again HEAVILY booked by the idiot guineas that ran the place. I think the first band I remember seeing was this band of kids who did a cover of Sepultura’s “Roots Bloody Roots” that was played waaaaaayyy too fast. Even when I was that age I never understood why younger bands just need to speed up even those songs that need to be played a little slower. Is it nervousness? Is it lack of understanding of dynamics? The original tempo for the song was just right because it allowed Igor to put the right kind of groove in there and, more importantly, it allowed the heavy ass riffs to breathe. Most times, fast never equates to heavy. Heavy is not about tempo, or even volume for that matter. It’s about attitude. If you’re a young musician and you’re reading this, don’t ever forget this. Dynamics, more important than ANYTHING else in terms of songwriting.
While seeing this one band one the main stage, whose guitarist was clearly trying so hard to be Dimebag Darrell, I recognized Jon Donais standing literally feet away from me. I went over to him to discuss the band on stage because the guitar player was in fact really good and he put on the biggest smile and even gave me his full attention. That solidified to me once for all the humility of the underground guys. They were playing their first huge festival tour as The Art Of Balance was selling 100,000 copies, the first album in Century Media Record’s history to do so and they were still down to earth guys. I went up to Brian Fair after seeing Jon and he too was a cool guy. I saw a few more local bands including Full Blown Chaos yet again (and they sounded like shit yet again!) and Chimaira came out. Long story short: they sucked.
Shadows Fall went on around 10pm and, long story short: they blew Chimaira out of the fucking water within the first minute of being up there. Although that part wasn’t hard. They were so good, playing songs from the two most recent CDs.
The Idiot Box
A Fire In Babylon
Stepping Outside The Circle
Thoughts Without Words
Of One Blood
Destroyer Of Senses
The show was fucking incredible…and I totally forgive Brian Fair for wearing a Clash t-shirt that night! Someone in the middle of the set he asked us if we BOUGHT the new album and I’m pretty sure most of the crowd responded pretty positively…by which I mean horns in the air and loud chanting. You could tell it meant a lot; let’s face it, bands in his position NEVER sell 100,000 copies of a record or even make that in combined album sales. And that was a minor miracle compared to the success the band would see a year later! What I did NOT know about that night was that it would be my last time going to L’Amour for anything. They’d close down just over five months later in early February 2004.
Here’ a brief video of me squatting 235lbs for 6 reps without a belt last Thursday night.
I managed to pull this off without a belt and it was surprisingly easy. Starting this week I began final preparations for my first meet happening on May 21st in Newark, NJ. As of this past Sunday I’m focusing only on the big three lifts and light cardio, making my training sessions considerably shorter.