January 27, 2011

Music Review: The Shadow Theory - Behind the Black Veil

The Shadow Theory is something of a dark-prog supergroup composed of artists I am unfamiliar with from bands I have never heard. I am constantly reminded, sometimes on a daily basis of how many bands are out there that I have never heard, no matter how many more I check out there are just that many more waiting to be discovered. In any case, this may not be the first go around for these musicians, but it is the first time they have been together.

The bands debut album, Behind the Black Veil, is a concept album about a rock star suffering a series of drug-induced nightmares to the point he does not know if he is awake or still dreaming. If it matters, I did not know this prior to my first listen and the idea never really entered my mind.

I have to say that I really like Behind the Black Veil. It has a strong mix of melody, aggression, and progressive tendencies. There is a concerted effort among the musical collective to craft songs rather than just show off their skills. The resulting music may not be the most mind blowing ever heard nor the most technically precise, but it all contributes to a flow that makes it very easy to get into. There is an ebb and flow to it that sweeps you up and carries you along.

Behind the Black Veil is an album that is built on atmosphere and emotion. It is dramatic musical landscape that stretches across a few genres while never losing focus. It reaches operatic, rock opera heights (particularly during the final track, "A Symphony of Shadows"), and pretty much any time the flute (yes, the flute) enters the equation. There are moments of thrash like aggression, some Dream Theater-esque proggy moments, and other times that are just flat out dark. There are even moments that for some strange and inexplicable reason remind me of Alice in Chains.

Devon Graves leads the band on vocals and is the emotional anchor of the film. I am not much of a lyric analyst, but I can recognize how much a voice can bring to the table and let it be known that while I do not feel this is the greatest vocal performance, not by a long shot, it is one that is captivating in how it is executed. While bass lines dance, drums groove, and guitars propel and soothe, it is the vocals that truly serve as our guide. There is something about Graves' work that is interesting, especially in moments that seem slightly out of synch with the rest of the instruments that works and feels purposeful as opposed to sloppy.

Behind the Black Veil offers a variety that comes together very nicely to create a singular work. This is a mature and confident debut for The Shadow Theory. Nothing particularly mind blowing, but certainly effective in its execution. If you like your music to be technically precise and still have a dose of emotion, this is a good one for you.


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