To Speak of Wolves have been around for ten years and have now released 3 albums on Solid State Records. They are the pure definition of a sleeper band. Those who know them await every release because they know they’ve found a top quality metal band. Now, they’re coming off a thunderous return to the music scene with an EP last year, and a full length on their home label – Solid State Records. The sophomore album Find Your Worth, Come Home was and is an incredible piece of art that should hold a place near the top of Solid State’s most treasured albums. Just over 5 years later, they’re back with a new album, and the question lingers, do they still have it?
Dead in the Shadow is thrown into immediate high gear with the first single in a similar fashion that “Hive Mind” exploded into chaos on the previous full length. Haunt Me speaks of codependency on a failing relationship. Vocalist Gage Speas screams with fervency, Show me you care, left out, fade out, come pick me up, cut ties, strangle. Hang here with me. I’m just lonely. Why can’t you see? I wasn’t born just to be abandoned.
“I Had to Let Go” follows lyrically in a similar direction. It’s angry at both someone else, and the voice of the speaker. Speas’ clean vocals come into these first few songs briefly, but memorably. His voice isn’t perfect or blemish free or aided with autotune. When his clean voice comes into a song, it feeds the ambience that To Speak of Wolves have always claimed as their home; it’s raw and dripping with emotion. Since pretty much every song in their catalogue has a story behind it, it’s the imperfection and emotion that makes a perfect fit.
“Scapeson” closes what I would call the beginning of the album, being that the three songs have all followed similar lyrical themes of frustration and inner struggle, and the chaotic and crazy musical style.
The most recognizable song on the LP is “Enemies to Everyone.” Speas’ clean vocals take over the entire chorus and it creates a catchy angst-filled section that is sure to be a fan favorite at shows. They have an ability to create clean vocal parts that aren’t whiney or annoying which is a crutch to many metal bands. TSOW easily avoids this since Speas has an incredibly recognizable voice, and just the right mix of grit to his sound.
“Deathbed Chimes” is an intriguing song from a lyrical standpoint. It seems like a hopeful song in the midst of desperate times, but quickly turns downhill. Signal of hope, to everyone I know. It’s gonna take some time. Just pray this flame will grow. However, the chorus tells a different story, I feel the pale horse coming for me. When his hands reach out I say ‘I give myself to you, won’t you take me please?’
Dead in the Shadow prides itself in top notch production. It’s crisp and clean in all the right ways without sounding too condensed and cookie-cutter flawlessness. If there’s any complaint to be found, it’s that at times the vocals could be a bit louder. Beyond that, it’s a triumphant return for one of Solid State’s most prestigious bands.
“Braided Bay” and “Touch” keep promises of a strong tail-end of the album. Each have enough individuality in their mixture of screaming to clean vocals within the verses and choruses.
TSOW travels to uncharted ground with their closing song, “I Am the Shovel, I Am the Grave.” Opening in the vein of Johnny Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave” with stomping and clapping, the final song concludes Dead in the Shadow in fitting fashion. It’s a somber song of being lost with little to no hope of finding a way out. The song builds slightly with an acoustic guitar and a piano creating a beautiful yet haunting atmosphere.
Musically, the album stands out because of how the band avoids all of the pitfalls that too many metal bands sink into. To Speak of Wolves strategically place breakdowns in proper places where they actually serve the song’s purpose instead of just filling up time. Secondly, the drumming is fantastic. There’s no double bass, which is one of the greatest assets of the record. While there’s nothing wrong with double bass in metal bands, it’s just too often overdone and often gets in the way of the songs. The style fits in with bands like Inhale Exhale, Norma Jean, and Rival Choir.
Dead in the Shadow is nearly everything we want from To Speak of Wolves. While it doesn’t quite have the lyrical magnificence of Find Your Worth, Come Home, you’re going to want to give this a listen.
RIYL: Rival Choir, Underoath, Inhale Exhale, Norma Jean