Shadecrown – Agonia (Inverse Records)

Monday, 3rd October 2016
Rating: 8/10

After being impressed by two self-released EPs back in 2013, Shadecrown seemed to be marked for going places. A few years has passed, but the act has finally released their first full-length album and signed with Inverse Records to do so. Melodic death metal fans that have an interest in bands that go for the melancholic, but still know how to bring the riffs will find Agonia a pleasant surprise.

Of course, bands like Insomnium and Amorphis have wandered through similar waters, but it doesn’t diminish Agonia’s gloomy glow. It takes some brass to start the album with your longest track, but “Eremophobia” takes advantage of its runtime and spreads out some beautiful and sorrow-filled moments to perfectly introduce the band. Similarly glum melodies take center stage in “Longing for Sleep” and “Silent Hours,” making it clear that the band know what works in the melodic death metal realm as far as riffing is concerned. But one aspect that was present in the band’s ealier EPs is that they aren’t afraid to bring in some shred to change up the formula, and that hasn’t changed on their debut album. “Led Astray” and “Far Off Innocence” are just two examples where some near-thrash riffing is introduced, and surprisingly works quite well within the more melancholic framework. It adds some extra dynamics into play, allowing those melodic and downtrodden leads to shine more brightly with their darkness. Going along with these shifts in dynamic are the vocals, which can range from a powerful death metal growl to an impressive clean – fitting the current mood of the music to a tee.

There was potential in the band’s earlier works, and Agonia brings it all to the surface. They take the melancholic aspects of melodeath and raise them up to stronger highs with the induction of some more aggressive riffs – somehow finding balance between the two halves and making the entirety of the album stronger. An impressive first outing.

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