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JFH Music Review


Letter To the Exiles, The Shadow Line
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Letter To The Exiles
The Shadow Line



Artist Info: Discography
Album length: 10 tracks: 40 minutes, 39 seconds
Street Date: April 13, 2010


The American metal style seems to be emerging in fewer and fewer new bands. Groups like As I Lay Dying and Killswitch Engage have found fame in the metal community by utilizing this sound, but to be like them is a dying ambition in fresh-faced bands. Maybe though, there's a reason for that. Letter To The Exiles, a Long Island band formed in 2006, has released their debut full-length, The Shadow Line after already gaining some popularity from their Call To Arms EP on Harvest Earth Records in 2008. Because of the band's tight live performance, they have grown some attention in and around the NYC Metro area. Although, releasing on Facedown's training ground label, Strike First Records, won't bring their notoriety much farther. That they'll have to earn.

After an ethereal piano "Prelude," the second track "Oh, Holy Dread" rushes forward to make its mark. It sounds impressive at first. It could be an album with a lot of potential. The drums add a lot of weight to the overall sound immediately and the guitars slither circles around the beat. The chord progressions followed rapidly in succession by faintly melodic guitar harmonies are well played, but unfortunately unoriginal. This follows into a low breakdown that is honestly chilling, however. But the way that it was introduced was horribly predictable. Quick strumming and a lone metronome beat from the kick drum followed by a bass drop sounds good, but just about every metal band has done it.

The thrash beats that fuel "It's Never Safe To Dream" brings to mind the early Frail Words Collapse of As I Lay Dying, but this track's slow and sultry guitar solo pulls it down. As it is the only thing close to a solo that you will hear on the album, it is royally disappointing. The brutally slow breakdowns at the end and near the beginning however, are begging you to throw down into head banging fits.

Quickly, you will realize that there is little variation in the tracks. "From Shadow To Substance" demonstrates this perfectly, as it sounds just like the previous songs you heard: unadventurous power chording and conventional drumming followed by a few breakdowns that tower over the rest of the song. The thing about bands like this is that they all mostly sound the same, apart from each band's superiority in one particular field. LTTE's strong point is clearly breakdowns, and they know it. "Threnody" is ripe with amazingly face melting breakdowns that are complemented beautifully by the screaming vocals that follow along. In that respect, they are doing their job well. If only everything else sounded as good to match.

While it isn't any more original to the genre, "Martyrdom" is at least original to the rest of the album. I'm a little tired of saying it, but the multiple breakdowns that fill in the gaps between the verses are still the best part. Besides that though, this may be one of the best tracks on the album. It has a touch more professionalism and originality than previous songs. At certain moments, I might even dare to say that the drumming of Andy Amato sounds just a little influenced by Matt Greiner of August Burns Red. A short, melodic break from the cliché intensity serves as a nice touch as well, but could honestly be cut out without anyone knowing the difference.

"You're Not Going To Seduce Anyone" opens up a lot like something from Bullet For My Valentine's The Poison, but switches shortly into the melting pot sound that this album dishes out. Once again, the breakdowns are impeccable. That should be a point of interest, but when it's the only thing to praise it gets a little redundant. A few blast beats and guitar slides later, and we're into "This Is the Day, the Mourning." At this point, I was praying for something different, but I only heard the same stale drum beats and the same orthodox guitaring. Not to mention vocalist Erich Barto abusing the same vocal pitch throughout the entire album. There is zero vocal diversity. No clean vocals, even the back-up vocals are identical to the lead. These days, one tone to the vocals is a little sparse; every band should know that by now.

A one minute "Interlude" that sounds like an extension of the song that preceded it gives you a chance to cool your head before taking on the final track, "Epilogue." This far in, there is little left to say. But at the end of the track, prepare for the most predictable buildup from a slow-down heard in a long time. As soon as the light and flowery guitar tweedling began, I knew exactly what was coming, and anyone else listening probably will too. There is no originality in this album whatsoever.

Stifling words, I know. But don't get me wrong, the album sounds good. If someone were to ask how The Shadow Line sounded, I would say, "It sounds pretty good, but…" and stop there. It somehow manages to sound like every other band like it, but it doesn't sound exactly like anyone else. The guitars are recorded to sound far too digital and unnatural, the kick drum overpowers all other sound on the album like a wet sponge hitting linoleum. It's not very original and there isn't any extraordinary talent to speak of among the members, but there's still potential there. This won't be anyone's favourite album ever, but as I said earlier, it brings to mind As I Lay Dying's Frail Words Collapse. That album wasn't spectacular either, but look where they are now. The Shadow Line was not fantastic by any means, but my eyes will stay on the band's future releases. They have potential as long as they improve.

- Review date: 4/10/10, written by Wayne Reimer of Jesusfreakhideout.com



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. Record Label: Strike First Records
. Album length: 10 tracks: 40 minutes, 39 seconds
. Street Date: April 13, 2010
. Buy It: Amazon.com

  1. Prelude (1:44)
  2. Oh, Holy Dread! (4:11)
  3. It's Never Safe To Dream (4:50)
  4. From Shadows To Substance (4:31)
  5. Threnody (3:33)
  6. Martyrdom (4:23)
  7. You're Not Going To Seduce Anyone (6:14)
  8. This Is The Day, The Mourning (4:37)
  9. Interlude (1:14)
  10. Epilogue (5:32)

 

 

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