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Shadowkiller – Dark Awakening Award winner

Dark Awakening
by Dave Nowels at 01 April 2020, 5:50 PM

Somehow I'd never even tip-toed into SHADOWKILLER's catalog for some reason, despite being a huge fan of vocalist & guitarist Joe Liszt's “other” project ANCIENT EMPIRE. Well, I certainly look foolish now. The magic that intertwines the songs on the band's new Stormspell release, “Dark Awakening” is just as potent for sure. Perhaps that source of magic is the common denominator Joe Lizst, but I think it's really a sum of all parts. This feels more like a cohesive band in more ways than one, and that comes across clearly on this recording.

Where as ANCIENT EMPIRE's releases have all centered around a concept approach, on “Dark Awakening”, SHADOWKILLER take a less complex approach overall, but only in that way. Obviously the vocals are the same, and the music has a similar overall style and feel. Much like on ANCIENT EMPIRE releases, the music here is just as intense and intricate. This is Power Progressive Metal at it's very finest. These are albums that I never seem to get tired of. “Dark Awakening” opens with a piano intro tinged with loneliness, before building and spiraling into the staccato drums of Gary Neff, and the dual attack of Lizst and Robert Edwards' guitars. Dan Lynch's bass admirably fills the low end with substance as well as the occasional flair of notes rising from the bottom. These guys are seasoned veteran players, and it shows. There's that aforementioned cohesiveness that powers through time and time again.

Lyrically as well as musically, the songs are well crafted. Lyrics here take on more of a 'fantasy' theme rather than AE's futuristic scenario. While musically, things are more familiar to AE, taking on shades of SAVATAGE (“A Fate To Echo”) or W.A.S.P. , as well as healthy dual guitar doses of MAIDEN (“Jericho Hill”), DEEP PURPLE's Jon Lord organ (“Sea Of Conquest”) and other classic American and NWOBHM bands. Other highlights for me included “At River's Edge”,“The Witch On The Mountain”, “Darkness Of War”, and ”Fires Of Olympus” where the two guitar approach adds so much depth. But perhaps most memorable for me was Neff's drumming throughout. Despite the last AE album (“Wings Of The Fallen”) being more of a one man project for Lizst, I'm convinced that Neff contributed there too. In particular, the double kick drum work is very distinct.

“Dark Awakening” is solid through and through. My only critique would be the sluggishness that bogs down each song slightly. I kept waiting for them to lose the restraints and really wail at full force. Thankfully, there's plenty of timing changes, that break things up pretty well. If classic Power Metal or Melodic or even just classic Metal is your thing, you're likely to really enjoy SHADOWKILLER. This is their fourth full length, and I can't wait to check out the rest of the catalog. Definitely keeping this one in rotation for the rest of the year, and I expect it'll be making a mark on my best of 2020 list. Highly recommended.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10


5 Star Rating

1. A Fate To Echo
2. Jericho Hill
3. At The River's Edge
4. The Witch on The Mountain
5. Darkness Of War
6. Sea Of Conquest
7. Shadows In The Mist
8. The Fires Of Olympus
Joe Liszt – Vocals, Guitars
Robert Edwards – Guitars
Dan Lynch – Bass
Gary Neff – Drums
Record Label: Stormspell Records


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