When we think of a hiatus in musical terms, the most common thought is that the band is officially over and that they won’t actually return. After all, whenever the common person takes a vacation, the desire to return to work typically tends to be at an all-time low so just imagine what it would be like returning to a life of normalcy and routine after many years on the road, grinding away. Still, the desire to return to our roots and get back to what is familiar will always linger and most of the time wins the internal battle. The proof is simple to find as 2017 as seen a multitude of identifiable and genre leading acts return to the musical landscape after many years on hiatus or silence for one reason or another. North Carolina’s metalcore outfit To Speak of Wolves is one such act as the band returned late last year with a surprise EP, New Bones and is now set to release their first album in five years with Dead in the Shadow.
With the return of To Speak of Wolves, the band brings with it what many will consider their most stable lineup. Band founder and percussionist Phil Chamberlain remains the only original member while both Gage Speas and Seth Webster return alongside him. The newest member, Andrew Gaultier, made his introduction on New Bones in 2016 and easily slides into place within the group. This is important because many musicians have different ideologies on where they should head directionally, fortunately of which don’t seem to affect these guys as Dead in the Shadow is thematically in tune with what the band as a whole appeared to desire. The overall sound is heavy, raw and impassioned as tracks cover intensely personal experiences from viewing a loved one get sober and understanding the reality of life and that every second we get closer to the end to dealing with sexual assault and hoping to create a lifeline for people to understand they are not alone.
From the album “Dead In The Shadow”: 2lin.cc/DeadInTheShadow
If the meanings behind the tracks that make up Dead in the Shadow don’t quite pull listeners into the world of To Speak of Wolves, the sound that is present on the record should easily do the trick. This is a brutally honest record lyrically, but also sonically as they consciously made a decision to stray away from many of the bells and whistles modern day metalcore contains, letting the music speak for itself. The evidence is brought forth straight from the start as “Haunt Me” shows an unrelenting level of heaviness that rarely secedes, rarely looking back and letting things remain calm only for a brief moment. Further enhancing this raw, heavy approach is blistering drumming that moves the music forward and really forms the core out of the sound, rather than taking a back seat. On the vocal front, Gage Speas is an absolute beast with guttural lows and shrieking mids, but misses at times in remaining consistent in delivery. Ironically, this helps cement the chaos in sound that makes up Dead in the Shadow.
In the five years since their last album, the music world has moved past the more raw, chaotic underproduced sound that littered the genre and due to that, Dead in the Shadow feels like a throwback album, aged more like a fine wine than a shiny new toy. It is a sound that eventually comes across slightly stale as there isn’t a huge amount of differentiation sonically, causing some of the tracks to come across bland and leaving listeners wanting something more. In a roundabout way, it makes it feel as if To Speak of Wolves truly never took a break and instead picked up right where they were, just five years in the future; whether or not that’s a bad thing will be left up to the listener.