WARREL DANE — Shadow Work (review)

WARREL DANE — Shadow Work album cover Album · 2018 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
"Shadow Work" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US heavy metal artist Warrel Dane. The album was released through Century Media Records in October 2018. It´s the successor to "Praises to the War Machine" from 2008 and features a completely different lineup, to the set of musicians who recorded the predecessor. Dane recruited solely Brazilian session musicians to record the instrumental part of the album, and also travelled to Brazil to record the album. While recording the album Dane tragically died of a heart attack in December 2017 (aged 56), forcing the label, the Brazilian session musicians, and the producer to finish the album without Dane. Fortunately Dane had already recorded quite a few vocal parts, and while "Shadow Work" may not be exactly what Dane had envisioned, had he been alive to finish the recordings of the album, 8 tracks and 41:43 minutes of music was still recorded and deemed of a high enough quality to be released.

"Praises to the War Machine (2008)" featured a more polished and formulaic songwriting style than what many fans had probably expected from the then Nevermore (and former Sanctuary) frontman, and that was probably what Dane wanted to do in 2008, but 10 years later (and a bad band break-up of Nevermore and a reformation of Sanctuary), Dane was obviously a bit more pissed off and in a dark mood, because stylistically "Shadow Work" predominantly sounds more like the fastest and heaviest of Nevermore´s output, than the somewhat tame material on the debut solo album.

As this is a vocalist solo album, it´s not surprising that Dane´s vocals are one of the focal points of the album, but other than that it´s not obvious that this is a solo album at all, because there are also some skilled and convincing instrumental performances featured on the album, and there is left plenty of room in the songwriting for guitars, bass, and drums to shine. In fact the instrumental performances deserve a mention. Dane hired some highly professional and skilled musicians for the project and everything is executed with great power and sharp precision. At times you almost forget that this is not Nevermore playing. Both in terms of the high level musicianship but also because of the overall songwriting style (of course no one plays on the level of or reaches the heights of Jeff Loomis, but there is definitely some great playing here). Heavy thrashy riffs and blistering solos, dark atmospheres, and deep melancholy are some of the album descriptions.

"Shadow Work" opens with the short "Ethereal Blessing" which works as an atmospheric intro, before all hell is unleashed with the next trio of tracks "Madame Satan", "Disconnection System", and "As Fast as the Others". Actually most of the album are in this pretty dark and heavy mode, and the band even manage to make The Cure cover "The Hanging Garden" sound really aggressive and hard edged. There are melodic choruses and motifs during the album, but they aren´t that many until you reack track number 7, which is the power ballad type track "Rain" (which doesn´t stay in power ballad mode throughout the track), and the closing behemoth of a progressive metal track in "Mother Is the Word for God". At 9:31 minutes this track has quite a few minutes to build and develop into a monster progressive metal track. Not completely unlike the title track on Nevermore´s 2005 album "This Godless Endeavor".

Considering the unfortunate circumstances under which "Shadow Work" ended up being completed, I´d say this has turned out really well. The tracklist is maybe slightly uneven, but it´s an overall feeling I have of the listening experience, and it has little to do with the quality of the material featured on the album, because this is high quality dark power/thrash/progressive metal through and through. The sound production is also professional and well sounding so a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

...let´s take a minute and remember all the the great releases, lyrics, and vocal performances Dane has given us since the mid-eighties...this is a world class heavy metal singer signing off. Here´s my hope that more people in the future will discover how truly great he was.
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