The road hasn’t been easy or smooth for Burning Shadows. After releasing an excellent album (their second overall) entitled Gather, Darkness! in 2012 and playing successful festival gigs at Warriors of Metal in Ohio and a Pathfinder Promotions event in Atlanta, the Maryland-based traditional power metal quintet struck while the iron was hot via the fine The Last One to Fall EP in 2013. The EP (which included, in addition to new songs and remakes, a stouthearted cover of Manowar’s “Battle Hymn”) was originally conceived as a teaser for the next full-length album, coming soon. But then life got in the way. There were financial burdens, personnel obstacles, and of course the difficulties inherent in playing an out-of-fashion musical style. Still, the band persevered. They didn’t cut corners. They painstakingly recorded their new album in bits and pieces (“intermittently,” as the booklet says) over a period spanning more than three years. After all, slow and steady wins the race. They didn’t cut corners, from the ambitious, thoughtful, nuanced songwriting to the sturdy production to the magnificent cover painting courtesy of renowned artist JP Fournier. The result – finally – is in hand, in the form of Truth in Legend, which features the two new songs from the 2013 EP (“Southwind” and “The Last One to Fall”) alongside six previously unreleased compositions.
Burning Shadows don’t play anything trendy and there’s nothing “flavor-of-the-month” about them. They’ve got one foot in the traditional metal camp (especially bands like Manowar, Iced Earth or Jag Panzer) and the other foot in guitar-driven European power metal (particularly the likes of older Blind Guardian, Wizard, and Gamma Ray). Don’t let the “power metal” tag fool you: Burning Shadows don’t do dreaded tralala melodies or overwrought symphonic flourishes, and they also traverse midtempo realms without mindlessly abusing the accelerator (although there is certainly ample speed on display such as on the double-bass workout “Sworn to Victory”). The twin guitars of Tim Regan and Greg Jones propel the songs forward with powerful riffs and tasteful leads, but what really sets Burning Shadows apart are the unique and charismatic vocals courtesy of Tom Davy. He doesn’t sound like anyone else (maybe just a hint of Hansi Kursch from time to time, such as some of the lines in “Southwind”), but Davy’s got a big, booming midrange voice, showcasing power, range and control with just enough grit, a flair for the dramatic and a storyteller vibe that fits the material perfectly.
Speaking of storytelling, Burning Shadows pride themselves on the grand tales presented in their lyrics, steeped in history, high fantasy, science fiction, and adventure on the high seas. This is stirring, epic stuff, beautifully complementing the music. The standout cut on Truth in Legend is the sprawling 13-minute closer, “Deathstone Rider,” which moves from a sparkling clean intro into a galloping riff that would make Joey DeMaio proud. There are plenty of twists and turns, including a righteous speedy lead break at around the 8-minute mark, and I defy anyone by the end of the tune not to be singing along in full voice, “Ride on for freedom / Ride on for glory / Ride on for freedom / Deathstone Rider running free!” Elsewhere, “Southwind” is a brilliant track from the EP featuring a captivating vocal melody and magnificent harmony guitars, even though it doesn’t have a chorus at all. “Truth in Legend” is pure intense Iced Earth worship, and opener “Day of Darkness” (the only track penned by drummer David Spencer) curiously incorporates extreme metal elements such as blastbeats and black-metal style riffing while remaining firmly within the Burning Shadows template.
If I had any criticism of Burning Shadow’s previous work, it was that the songwriting wasn’t quite catchy or memorable enough. That shortcoming has largely been remedied on Truth in Legend. No, the band still don’t milk some of those triumphant choruses or glorious melodies as much as they could, but the songs do feel more complete and developed this time around. And they stick, or at least they have for me. Burning Shadows deliver the goods at a high level. Truth in Legend deserves to be heard, supported and appreciated by fans of heavy/power metal, so don’t let this one slip past you in the neverending anonymous flood of new releases swirling by on your favorite mobile device. Official release date is May 5, 2017. Order your copy at www.burningshadows.bandcamp.com today.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~