by Nikita Alekseyevich Khrenov
The Shape has been a mainstay of the Connecticut scene as long as I can remember. Throughout the years they’ve endured trends, lineup changes, and personal struggles, all the while still managing to crank out album after album. The Age of Doom and Fear is the fifth album from our local stalwarts, an impressive accomplishment but do they still have it in them to release quality tunes?
Short answer is: yes. Starting with a cinematic instrumental before riding right into the haunting whispers of Brian (Almeida, vocals) and chugging guitars that lead right into a melodic lick that would make an Iron Maiden fan make a double take. Savage growls and tremolo picking get the blood pumping ready for a circle pit as the band takes a step back and leans into more of a hard rocking groove. As the song progresses it shifts into a softer rock section to allow room for an emotional guitar solo before hitting the gas again once more to close out the track on a high note. An excellent opener and really a taste of things to come on this record.
The band sticks the heavy tracks right in the beginning to blow your hair back right from the start. “The Parasomniac” kicks things off with open string riffing akin to the work of Jeff Loomis as it shifts into another hooking chorus as Brian belts from the top of his lungs. “Invisible Wolves” really keeps the head bobbing, full of sludgy goodness and riffs that dig into your subconscious. “Sifting Through Ash” starts out with more of a mainstream rock feel. The drums keep things a bit more steady and subdued as the guitars stick to more elegant melodic riffing before a chord focused chorus to allow for Brian to take center stage.
In the middle of the record a very deliberate change to settle the sound back into more of a hard rock focus is a bold change but one they shift into rather elegantly. “Party at the End of the World” in particular is a no frills in-your-face rock tune that you could definitely hear on mainstream FM radio being pushed multiple times a day. It’s a stripped back, feel good banger that makes you want to dance in the pit spilling cheap beer all over the floor.
With “Rigor Mortis” the band really takes a major tonal shift into haunting heavy metal with plenty of King Diamond influence draped over it. The dramatic rhythm of the vocals and guitar work really showcases the deep musical connection between the performers to be able to lock into a unified pattern. Acoustic and clean guitars make a welcome appearance to add a new dynamic to the album.
Longtime fans may notice some neat Easter Eggs from the bands’ first album The Last Great Awakening. Two of the biggest throwbacks on the album are the tracks “(Re)Awakening” and “Drag Me to Hell.” The former contains an almost identical chorus to the original song “Awakening” but the song has been condensed down and tightened up to be a heavy metal juggernaut. “Drag Me to Hell” is very close to the original iteration with a soft piano melody opening the song. This track really does its best to encapsulate the whole record, with catchy rock riffs, dueling guitars, fiery drums a tight low end and Brian’s impassioned vocals tying it all together.
The Age of Doom and Fear is a very dense album, each song progresses through various forms and styles which makes its length a very daunting aspect. At some points ear fatigue would set in meaning some subtle nuances of the songwriting and sound design could be missed. The Shape have reawakened into a new age and it’ll be interesting to see where the band will go on from here but based on this album the journey promises to be an eventful one.
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