Brian Fair of Shadows Fall Goes Track by Track Through ‘Retribution’
On September 15, Shadows Fall will release their brand new album, 'Retribution.' "We definitely let it rip on this one and let every influence show," vocalist Brian Fair told Noisecreep. "After 10 plus years, you get the confidence to not worry about letting it all out there. You get a little selfish, too. This is what we need to hear right now." More than a month before its street date, 'Retribution' is dissected song by song:
'The Path To Imminent Ruin' – "It's basically an intro with acoustic guitar interlude based on a few of the melodies from the song 'My Demise,' which comes up next. We've always been into those little pieces that sort of set the tone and bring it down a notch, so when it actually kicks in, it's that much more overwhelming. It's a cool, eerie piece. The title says you're on your way to destruction. They busted out some really vintage, old school nylon strings as well as some old Taylor acoustics to get that really nice, almost chamber music overtone."
'My Demise' – "We wanted to open the record with this one because it's almost a seven-minute song that really gives you a full preview of everything that's coming down the line. It reminds me of when we opened 'Of One Blood' with 'Crushing Belial'. This is everything that's going to happen on the album in a nutshell. You've got the thrash metal intro into that dark, grooving, almost Alice In Chains vibe verse, but by the end there's a sludgy breakdown and the total neo-classical shred part to come out of it. That's the Shadows Fall microcosm."
'Still I Rise' – "We just filmed a video for it. There's a big, overwhelming chorus but it doesn't lose the intensity. There's still screams underlying it and the thunder intro – that came together when Jason (Bittner, drummer) was working on his drumbeat for one of his clinics. It was this crazy two-handed, weird, off-time double bass thing. We were coming up to practice while Paul (Romanko, bassist) and him were jamming on it and it instantly turned into that riff. We made it a little heavier and it fell right into place. It was one of those songs that kind of wrote itself over a practice, one of those great moments where it all clicks real fast. Lyrically, it's about never giving in, always looking within yourself for inner strength. Not trying to find it in the outside world or through crutches such as religion or politics. It's about really standing up for what you believe in. It has that old school hardcore lyrical content."
'War' – "That's probably the fastest song we've written. I don't know about actual tempo, but it never relents. It's a non-stop head bang fest, which is funny 'cause the lyrics are actually from the (former Emperor of Ethiopia) Haile Selassie speech to The UN that later became a Bob Marley song (also called 'War.') So it's kind of a hint to the idea of brotherhood among all men and a really positive look on the world. But it's probably the most brutal tune on the record. I think Bob would be proud. He was more of a revolutionary than a pacifist to begin with so I think he'd appreciate the aggressive take on it."
'King Of Nothing' – "We were lucky enough to have the redneck assassin himself, Mr. Randy Blythe (from Lamb Of God) add some backup vocals which was cool. We were recording in the Virginia area, outside of Richmond. He came down originally just to cook us dinner and hang out. Of course, we had to get him on the mic. So at one point towards the end, over the line 'Quit your f---ing crying', we have myself, Randy and Matt (Bachand, guitarist) all screaming full on. It's the three part harmony from hell."
'The Taste Of Fear' – "This one's more of a dark, slow... almost a 70s rock vibe with a thrash metal angle. I love the intro riffs with that building wah guitar line; it's so eerie. When it drops in it's got that real heavy vibe like The Cult's 'Sonic Temple' and 'Night Songs' by Cinderella. We didn't add in some crazy double bass death metal riff just to toughen it up. We let it ride. I know a lot of kids today are always hitting shuffle on their iPod or downloading individual tracks, but we still think in the terms of a full album. We always want the tracklisting to ebb and flow between moments of total intensity and a step back to take a breath. That's something we always consciously approach."
'Embrace Annihilation' – "This is the warning of the apocalypse. As the world spins, it seems to be getting more and more out of control. We almost seem to be welcoming it! People aren't really doing a whole lot to stop it. It's like people are waiting with open arms for the end of the world. The music is really heavy and evil, even with those little acoustic breaks. It just led to that sort of lyrical approach."
'Picture Perfect' – "It's a song about instead of seeing the reality in a situation or in someone, you just want to create your own reality and enjoy it – until it ultimately destroys you. That's never a good way to handle things, but it's usually easier than dealing with it. Musically, that song is definitely the most straightforward rock tune of the record. The chorus is full soaring three-part harmonies. This record marks the first time we had John (Donais, lead guitarist) actually singing some of the melodic harmonies. He joins in on 'Still I Rise' as well as 'Picture Perfect', hitting those really high, almost Sebastian Bach notes, that are layered in there. That was something that Elvis, who produced the vocals, really pulled out of us. He heard John singing along to some '80s metal on a good night of drinking and it was like, 'No holding back secret voices. Bring everything you've got to the table.' So we really just let it rip. That chorus is going to be fun live. I'm really looking forward to that."
'A Public Execution' – "That's the song we've been playing live since December. One of the first songs we wrote for the album. It's just a giant middle finger of a thrash song. That's actually the first curse words ever on a Shad record. We finally broke the profanity barrier. Now we get the sticker. All these years of safety, now we get the warning about explicit content. We'll be right next to 2 Live Crew. The pre-chorus is just 'F--- It All' over and over again in gang vocals."
'Dead And Gone' – "It's really the most technical tune on the record. It was the last one written. I think John must have gone into the riff bag, realized he had a ton left and decided to fit them all into one crazy song. It's one of my favorite. We're definitely going to be playing it live. I can't wait to do that. It's a great way to end the album, on a full, intense level. Go out with a full punch. I love the chorus as well. Lyrically, it's kind of about the change in heart and change in philosophy that happened, not only with the election, but a lot of stuff around the world. It seems like there's a little bit of uprising, which is good to see. There was a lot of complacency for a while. Hopefully there'll be some positive change. But at the same time, it's not completely hopeful. We've seen the beginnings before. It's definitely an urging to continue these things as opposed to just settling for what's happened already."
In closing, Fair briefly discussed the bonus tracks. "There will be a few cover songs coming out as well. We did 'Bark At The Moon' by Ozzy Osbourne, a Cro-Mags tune, 'The Age Of Quarrel' and Nuclear Assault's 'Critical Mass'. I don't know which one is going where, but they'll definitely be on different versions – European or Japanese release, digital only, something like that."