Graveshadow – Ambition’s Price (M-Theory Audio)Friday, 13th April 2018
Based out of Sacramento, California, Graveshadow embrace the diverse audio mindset that symphonic metal carries in today’s scene. Often to stand apart from being another Nightwish-inspired clone, these artists incorporate multiple sub-genre nuances – in the case of this quintet, you’ll hear everything from power to thrash, doom to gothic and even extreme elements on their second full-length Ambition’s Price. How this plays out over the course of a record can be open for debate – as many listeners may find specific tracks favorable to their listening habits, while others shuffle along due to the bumpy ride.
It’s hard to deny the darker riffing and thoughtful execution out of guitarists Will Walker and Aaron Robitsch – the classic doom inflections throughout the title track worthy of older Candlemass or Solitude Aeturnus attention, including a sparse lead break that aligns to the riff brilliantly as vocalist Heather Michele glides from growls to semi-operatic/gothic melodies. The band isn’t afraid to also be more uplifting in a power metal platform for “Hero of Time”, or slightly more progressive with rhythm/clean interplay between the tempos and piano/guitar execution during the three-part “Call of the Frostwolves” saga. The orchestral/symphonic side of things isn’t as prominent as making sure these songs are metal through and through – aiding the appeal of “The Unspoken” and the mid-tempo, commercial closer “Eden Ablaze” that has a slight Paradise Lost/Sentenced-like swing to the main hooks.
There’s no denying Heather Michele as a competent singer when it comes to her clean range and upper falsetto action – she chooses to double up many of her harmonies in the verses that add tension and choir-oriented impact to certain cuts like the adventurous ballad “Gates” and heavier “Return to Me”. Where this album takes a slight misstep to this scribe’s ears are in many of the growl-heavy sections (specifically “Doorway to Heaven” and “Liberator”) that just aren’t convincing compared to say Arch Enemy and feel forced in spots rather than a natural part of the songwriting. Just because you want to diversify your sound does not necessarily mean every dynamic should be explored if it doesn’t enhance and elevate the final product and may be food for thought for Graveshadow down the line.
The purple hues and fire/skull/princess warrior cover art from Dusan Markovic (Jag Panzer, Mystic Prophecy) set a fair scene for the proceedings ahead, and Night Demon’s Armand John Anthony gives the band a sharp, lively template behind the boards as a producer. Ambition’s Price is an adequate symphonic metal effort because it focuses on the metal more than anything – the hooks coming at you left and right, just in more of a down to earth platform.