Released By: Blackoak Records
Release Date: June 3rd, 2022
Genre: Progressive Metal
Erik Tordsson – Vocals
Markus Sigfridsson – Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Raphael Dafras – Bass
Léo Margarit – Drums
1. The Sentinel
3. Chaos System
5. Path of Dismay
6. Narcissistic Ritual
7. Kiss of Death
8. Desert of the Real
9. Shadow Way
More and more, it seems, we’re seeing members of more notable bands taking time away from their main band to work on side projects, either exploring different sides of their genre or trying something completely different. All Things Fallen is a side project of Darkwater guitarist Markus Sigfridsson, who also plays keyboards, and provides backing vocals. He’s accompanied by Pain of Salvation drummer Léo Margarit and Harmony bassist Raphael Dafras for the rhythm section, as well as End of September vocalist Erik Tordsson. I only recently discovered All Things Fallen, so I missed out on their self-titled debut when it was first released, but upon learning members of Darkwater and Pain of Salvation were involved, I was interested in hearing what they sounded like. After giving their second full-length release Shadow Way several listens, I am left most impressed, though I do think there’s room for improvement if the band chooses to stick around for the long term.
Unsurprisingly, Shadow Way is a very mellow, atmospheric prog album, with a dark feel to both the lyrics and the overall music. Coming from members of Darkwater and Pain of Salvation, I was expecting a melodic, atmospheric and at times quirky prog album, and for the most part that’s what this is, though with less emphasis on the quirky and more so on the atmosphere in particular. The biggest difference between this and other works by Sigfridsson is that this is possibly his heaviest, most guitar-driven project to date, with very little emphasis on vocal hooks for the most part. Now, don’t get me wrong, vocalist Erik Tordsson does a very solid job, with a nice range and an ability to hit some very high notes, but while he does have a few moments where he gets to shine, it’s clear this album is much more about the instrumental work and the overall soundscape than it is about big vocal moments. This is a prog album, after all, and despite my initial expectations, it doesn’t fall into melodic prog territory, for the most part, generally being a bit heavier and more complex than that label would suggest.
The star of the show is Sigfridsson, who leads the way throughout the album, especially with his hard-hitting riffs and very technically impressive guitar solos, though he also plays keyboards, and those do a great job of setting the mood. They don’t necessarily stand out most of the time, instead staying in the background, but they are very moody and are a constant presence, occasionally being used for some excellent solo sections along with the lead guitar. The rhythm section is also fantastic, with Margarit and Dafras both doing a great job of giving the album a nice groove, that stays there throughout, and at times I find the rhythm section to be one of the highlights, especially on tracks like “Kiss of Death” and “Pandemonium”. The production is also fantastic, with everything sounding great, and when symphonic elements are added into the mix they also sound great.
The one area where I feel Shadow Way doesn’t quite meet its full potential is in the songwriting. There aren’t any outright bad tracks here (though I do feel it loses momentum towards the end), but there’s a bit of a sameness that becomes more noticeable as the album goes on, and I feel the band could have tried something a bit different here and there to keep the album feeling fresh. At just under 50 minutes, it’s not especially long for a prog album, so that’s not an issue, but I do feel one particular track drags on a bit too long.
Starting with the positives, though, the opening track “The Sentinel” gets things off to a strong start. It does a perfect job of letting listeners know what to expect from the album, as it’s a very mellow, atmospheric prog track with a nice balance between melodic passages during the verses and chorus, along with some very heavy guitar work at times, as well as an excellent solo section in the middle. It isn’t overly catchy or anything, but it does have one of the better choruses on the album, allowing Tordsson to shine. Next is “Rebirth”, a slightly more offbeat track, with some very complicated rhythms, where both the bass and drums sound excellent. It’s a slightly heavier track and is one of many tracks where the instrumental work is impressive throughout, with the keyboards, in particular, standing out, but the vocals aren’t given much room and the overall songwriting is solid but not particularly memorable.
Following a brief interlude track “Chaos System”, the best sequence of the album begins with “Pandemonium”, another more keyboard-driven track, with more of a cinematic symphonic metal feel than most other tracks, thanks to some excellent violin passages performed by guest Maria Grigoryeva. The verses are fairly subdued, like most of the album, while the chorus is just a bit more upbeat, and is one of two very catchy, addicting choruses on the album. The track also has a very groovy instrumental portion, and overall it’s one of my favorites on the album. Next is “Path of Dismay”, perhaps the heaviest track on the album, with a bit of an Evergrey feel to it, especially with some of the chunky riffs. It has a ton of atmosphere during the verses, with some great keyboard usage, while the chorus is fast-paced and is the closest the album comes to power metal territory, with intense drums, heavy riffs, and some excellent vocal melodies that allow Tordsson to stand out. The catchiest chorus on the album, though, comes on “Narcissistic Ritual”, a more melodic track that starts with a strong atmosphere during the verses, before opening up for a huge chorus, with fantastic vocal melodies and very catchy lyrics. It’s easily the best vocal showcase on the album, while still having some excellent instrumental work as always, especially during a fantastic, very beautiful solo section. It’s easily my favorite track on the album.
Sadly, the album falls off a bit towards the end. The final three tracks all have a bit of a sameness to them, each being fairly slow-paced, very heavy guitar-driven tracks that fall into similar patterns of having intense riffs that don’t leave much room for strong vocal melodies, aside from in short bursts, but they’re also isn’t much in the way of memorable songwriting, so the tracks tend to drag on a bit. “Kiss of Death” is the best of the group, thanks to having the best riffs and a somewhat decent chorus, while the closing title track is nice but not particularly memorable, and sadly “Desert of the Real” is both the longest and weakest track here, clocking in at just under 8 minutes and not going anywhere interesting, aside from the last couple of minutes where it starts to get somewhat enjoyable, just as it ends.
I wish Shadow Way had a stronger ending, so it could leave a stronger impression overall, but up until those last few tracks, it is a very enjoyable album, and is the better of the two releases by All Things Fallen, up to this point. Fans of Darkwater in particular should find a lot to enjoy here, with the atmospheric keys and dark lyrics, while anyone looking for a heavy, guitar-driven prog album with great instrumental work is recommended to give this album a listen. I think songwriting is the one area where the band has the most room for improvement, but there are still some great moments to be found here, especially on tracks such as, “Pandemonium”, “Path of Dismay” and “Narcissistic Ritual”.
Written by: Travis Green
My Global Mind – Staff Writer
Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.