Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Shadow Theory - Behind The Black Veil

The Shadow Theory
Behind The Black Veil
Inside Out Music/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

When former Psychotic Waltz front man Devon Graves decided to put his outfit Deadsoul Tribe’s on indefinite hiatus, it didn’t come as any surprise. After all, the band hadn’t really managed to achieve the kind of success they had envisioned after a lengthy six years together, and after five albums, it was becoming clear that the band weren’t about to radically change their sound and direction with another album following 2007’s rather disappointing ‘A Lullaby For The Devil’. But what is surprising is that it’s taken Graves some four years to finally emerge with something new. But after a lengthy wait and after much speculation from fans in general, Graves has finally unveiled his new outfit The Shadow Theory.
Billed as a progressive supergroup, Graves (Who provides vocals, guitar and flute here) has surrounded himself with some well established names, with guitarist Arne Schuppner (Complex 7), bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw (Ex-Pain Of Salvation/Dial), Greek keyboardist Demi Scott and drummer Johanne James (Kyrbgrinder/Threshold) makes up The Shadow Theory.
Given the line-up, and the lengthy spell between projects, I was hoping for something special from the band’s debut effort ‘Behind The Black Veil’. But given my disappointment with every new Deadsoul Tribe album, I wasn’t expecting an absolute classic. And after giving the band’s album a good listen, I have to say that ‘Behind The Black Veil’ is pretty much what I expected, with its mix of both the good and the average.
The first thing that hits you about the opening track ‘I Open Up My Eyes’ is just how heavy the band sounds. Deadsoul Tribe had their heavy moments, but nothing quite as thick and guitar driven. Of course, Graves’ flute playing does turn up from time to time to give the song a sense of familiarity, and Graves’ odd vocal arrangements do sound reminiscent of his former work. But as a whole, there’s a darkness and heaviness here that wasn’t evident on any of Graves’ former projects. And I would go as far as to say that it works well.
Fitting in with the mood of the opener, and the conceptual theme that runs throughout the album (About a rock star who, after a binge on drugs, finds himself locked into sequence of nightmares that blur reality and fantasy), ‘The Sound Of Flies’ is another heavier sounding number that pits harsh riffing alongside some atmospheric passages to create an impressive sound, while on ‘Ghostride’, the band reveal a slightly thrashier side to their sound, with Graves matching the intensity of the music with a heavier (And at times creepy) vocal approach throughout.
Given the diverse sounds shown on the opening tracks, ‘Welcome’ comes across as something quite straight-forward and melodic for the most part, which in itself manages to give the song a lasting impression as one of the album’s more memorable efforts, while ‘By The Crossroads’ evokes a dark and heavy tone, which in some ways reminds me of King Diamond, but without the off kilter vocals.
The up-tempo and acoustic based ‘Selebrate’ is a bit of an oddity on the album with its folk/rock vibe, and sounds reminiscent of Jethro Tull, while Graves’ vocal narrative on ‘A Candle In The Gallery’ again sees a return to King Diamond territory, if only with its minimal instrumentation, mix of vocals and focus on the story told within its lyrics.
But as strong as the album appears, it does have its weak points, most notably with ‘Snakeskin’, ‘Sleepwalking’ and ‘The Black Cradle’. Although none of the tracks are necessarily bad, they don’t stand alongside the formerly mentioned tracks in terms of strong choruses and changes within their musical backdrop. At best, they’re all a bit lifeless and plodding. The epic closer ‘A Symphony Of Shadows’ is also a bit of a hit and miss effort, with Graves experimenting with every known sound under the sun in order to create a mini-opera. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, apart from when it sounds too much like he’s trying too hard, and failing to really make a lasting impression with the final result. It has its moments, but as a whole doesn’t quite manage to make the whole thing sound like one piece of work.
In the end, ‘Behind The Black Veil’ has more than its fair share of strong and memorable songs compared to its list of failures, and given Graves’ past endeavours, that’s a measure of success. All up, as long as you’re not expecting an absolute classic, and you’re a fan of Deadsoul Tribe’s past efforts, you’ll find plenty to enjoy within The Shadow Theory’s debut.

For more information on The Shadow Theory, check out –

© Justin Donnelly