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Beyond Shadows - Wolf's Blood

Beyond Shadows
Wolf's Blood
by Kira Schlechter at 08 August 2020, 4:11 AM

Many things can mar an otherwise good album – great music, not so great lyrics, or the other way around. An off mix can do the same thing, and that’s the case with the latest from BEYOND SHADOWS, “Wolf’s Blood.” Formerly of the band MIDIAN and based in New York/New Jersey, this is melodic death metal in the Gothenburg style. The duo of Daniel and Chris do it all themselves on this four-song EP; Daniel also produced, mixed, and mastered it.

“Never An Answer” starts thundering and fast until it settles into a nice thick groove with plenty of upper end, but then it speeds up and the mix gets mushy, not delineated or separated. There’s a pleasing solo between the verses, and the groove comes back before it speeds up again. The chorus and the last verse has swing, powered by judiciously-used double kick drumming. Sadly, Daniel’s screaming vocals are not distinguished from the rest of the mix throughout, and what he’s saying is worth hearing and completely relatable – “Do you know what it feels like/To want something so bad, but you can’t have it?” and having “no closure, no compassion” and trying to find solace within a higher power maybe (“Throw my hands up to the sky/Asking why is this happening to me?” but never getting the answer). The bridge, too, is great stuff and really mature – “Seeing all this happiness around me/Imagining what my life could have been/But now I’m feeling old and rejected/Sitting alone pondering over my lost youth”–I just wish it would be brought out in the mix more so you could really appreciate it.

This is the case in each song. The title track has that familiar WOLFHEART strumming, but again, everything needs to be more separated so it’s audible. It’s not crisp and clean; it’s good material but it needs cleaned up a little. The verses are plodding and dramatic at first, then really speed up; the chorus is slower and more melodic, and there’s a nice moment of suspense before it kicks in. Solos are layered and harmonic, the drums pushing and pulling along. The instrumental lead-in to the last chorus is lush and stately with effective rhythmic changeups, and it ends all of a sudden with an acoustic recounting of the opening melody.

Again, Daniel is delivering a good story here: a metaphor, the lone outlaw as wolf, the killer in the night out for revenge (“profess your pain through your howls,” “cast out rogue, rejected and despised,” “I do not lament/In my personal code/Proud, Strong, Scornful, Merciless”). As he dies, he knows it has not been in vain (“Lifetime of memories will fade/Visions of my family come to me/Knowing that this is the end/My life’s work is complete”). It’s definitely quality writing, it’s just too bad you can’t hear it – if I hadn’t had lyrics, I couldn’t have appreciated it at all.

“Regret Is My Name” also begins acoustically with piano, a nice continuation from the end of the previous track. It’s a lovely melody until it’s destroyed (in a good way) by guitar and blast beats. It goes back and forth from a pretty straightforward groove into the super-fast blast; the verses have punch, while the chorus is smoother and more lyric. The solo later though is really upfront and sharply metallic sounding (not as in metal, but as in harsh compared to the rest of the guitar sounds), and the bridge tempo feels off, like the drums are doing one thing and the guitars another.

Again, these are deeply personal lyrics and well-expressed, but everything around them is just way too loud and too distorted. The title pretty much explains it all – this is someone who “wasted my life,” who “Never saw how beautiful life was,” who “when love knocked, I never answered the door/I turned my back and sent her away.” It perhaps hints at substance abuse or something else that got in the way (“What I’d loved became my downfall/It took over everything”). ”What a foolish man, regret is my name” becomes at the end, “I’m an old man, and regret is my name.” As is clear, it’s good stuff, but the issue is, it’s NOT clear.

The final track, “Screaming Eyes (Go Unheard),” follows warm, rich acoustic with almost military drumming and echoing guitar. The tempo picks up as expected, the prechorus builds the tension until the release of the chorus, which is slower and adds some vocal harmony (if you can catch it). This is a vivid, harrowing story of abuse (“Wake to a backhand/Painful alarm/Cruel caresses/Black and blue arms”) that’s really effective with the awful detail, the misplaced guilt of “allowing” it to happen, the hope for deliverance (“Close your eyes, cry yourself to sleep/Tomorrow will be a better day”), and the realization that it’s within (“Look inward and ask myself to free me/From this living nightmare” and ‘No more fear, no more pain”). The moment where the character fights back and recovers is well done, the final chorus changing to “Look in my eyes/There’s no more screaming” and “Look at me now/I was once like you/Survived to tell my tale/I will scream no more” – salvation has come.

BEYOND SHADOWS clearly knows how to tell a story – the plot twists are never belabored, they are done in one quick line, so deft that you might miss them. But you will miss them if you don’t have lyrics –and if you don’t have them, you will miss them in the sheer volume and density of the mix/music. And that’s a shame.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 6
Overall: 7

3 Star Rating

1. Never An Answer
2. Wolf’s Blood
3. Regret Is My Name
4. Screaming Eyes (Go Unheard)
Daniel Shepherd - Vocals, Guitar, Bass
Chris Hawkins - Drums
Record Label: Independent


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