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Shields - Life In Exile

Life In Exile
by Jon Conant at 30 May 2018, 2:59 AM

We are currently witnessing a metalcore/djent renaissance, with more and more bands cropping up to bring the breakdown thunder infused with whatever electronica vibes they feel are necessary. There’s a lot of new stuff to be heard, a lot of unique stuff, and a lot of it is really quite good. The latest to throw their hat in the ring is SHIELDS, out of the UK. Their debut full length album “Life In Exile” came out this past April 20th via Long Branch Records, a healthy 12-tracks long. While SHIELDS do bring the djent vibes and infuse a ton of heavy and dank breakdowns, they are still decidedly more “traditional” metalcore. They are about to tour with OCEANS ATE ALASKA, if that tells you anything (it should).

The thing that most defines the album’s sound, and also is their greatest weakness, is the melodic stylings. The bulk of the tracks on “Life In Exile” feature a balance between heavy breakdowns with plenty of 0s and 1s to go around, and melodies driven by BRING ME THE HORIZON-esque clean vocals. This, unfortunately, are where things go a little stale with the album.

It’s not so much that any of the clean vocals are bad, they are absolutely not. I am uncertain who between Joe Edwards and Sam Kubrick provides the cleans (I would think Kubrick), but they are really well performed and do balance with the harsh vocals well. The production is also rock solid tight, which is nice to see from a young band. (They do have a label and some experience under their belt, having released an EP in 2015). But the problem is: the melodies just aren’t that good. They are VERY generic and derivative of the middle-2010s electronicore, and they do the album a huge disservice by ruining momentum built up by the vicious breakdowns they interlace throughout the album. If there hadn’t been so many bands prior to SHIELDS writing melodies and clean vocals this way, I may feel different. But we have heard it so many times before, it was old before the album was even halfway over. So again, not so much that the vocals are bad. I would just love to see SHIELDS take the creativity to the next level in that regard.

But, on the opposite end, the heavy moments carry this album. There is a lot of very creative and unique work going on here. Track 2 “Black Dog” starts things off on a heavy and strong note, following a weak 2 minute opener in “Intimacy”. It’s fresh, and one of the less annoying bit of cleans on the album. It’s a solid song. The middle of the album features some of the more annoying work on the album, with “It’s Killing Me” and “Love Is Dead” being notable exceptions. Not going to lie, I nearly face palmed with the chorus of “It’s Killing Me”, cheesy is an understatement. It truly does the album a disservice, and discredits the strong moments.

Fortunately, wedged right in between those two is track 7 “Delilah”, one of the strongest and heaviest tracks on the album. This might be my favorite track. Generally speaking, the back half of the album is stronger than the front. Shortly after “Delilah”, tracks 9 and 10, “Mother” feat. Joel Heywood, and “Sibling” prove to be two of the strongest tracks on the effort, with less cleans and more punishing breakdowns. The guitar work here is elevated to a new level, and is fresh as can be.

All in all, this is a solid debut effort from what appears to be an exciting young metal band. It has its cringey moments, and maybe for others those will be good moments, but all in all it’s a catchy album with a lot of excitement. I imagine these guys will keep getting better, provided they are willing to broaden their horizons and branch out their sound a bit more to prevent becoming derivative in a sophomore slump, when/if they release a second effort. If you dig this kind of a metalcore vibe, give the album a listen! There’s plenty to enjoy.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Memorability: 7
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Intimacy
2. Black Dog
3. In The Grey
4. Upside Down
5. White Embers (feat. Spencer Charnas)
6. It’s Killing Me
7. Delilah
8. Love Is Dead
9. Mother (feat. Joel Heywood)
10. Sibling
11. N35.E138
12. Aokigahara
Joe Edwards - Vocals
Sam Kubrick - Vocals / Guitar
George Christie - Guitar
Lawrence Welling - Bass
Alex Rayner - Drums
Record Label: Long Branch Records


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Edited 19 August 2019

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