by Nikita Alekseyevich Khrenov
Music is an amazing storytelling medium. So many bands from Gorguts to Coheed and Cambria use their talents to weave compelling narratives through their art, blending verse with music beautifully. This is no easy feat, but as the Connecticut music scene has been proving as of late, we have no shortage of incredibly ambitious and talented individuals ready to push the boundaries of their own capabilities to set themselves apart from the rest. Relative newcomers Shagohod have stepped up to the plate to tell their tales on violence and the consequences it brings with their newest release Tin, Gold, Lead, & Blood.
Each track on the album spins a different tale of a different character in unique scenarios all wrapped up in a Western-themed package. The first three tracks feed into each other very smoothly, with a somber acoustic guitar and Dave Coffey’s singing with light accompaniment by tasteful mandolins and a beautiful trumpet solo. As an intro track it’s very effective in setting the bleak tone of the subject matter surrounding the whole record. Widowmaker kicks off with acoustic guitar as well yet with an upbeat tempo and war drums to help usher in the overdriven guitar riffage, yet as quickly as it arrives it leaves to return to the acoustic guitars and narrative singing. The song moves between heavier, well layered riffing and stripped down, almost minimalist, clean and acoustic sections. A high point of the track has to be the immensely catchy chorus that sticks in your head after the hefty 11-song track list.
The last of the beginning “trilogy” on the album, Lightning Rifle, leans fully into the band’s proggy influences. Killer harmonized guitars work straight from the Coheed and Cambria playbook that feeds into the narrative, then right back into groovy riffs. Every return to the verse riff adds more flavor crystals to the pot, with reverb soaked electric guitars and synth adding to the tension in the tale, as the band prepares itself for a killer counterpoint laden mind-melter of a bridge. The band clearly knows how much is just enough, they play and bend the rules enough to keep the listener engaged but keep it within a very accessible range to ensure the hooks stay intact.
What is abundantly clear is while this band set their foot firmly in the progressive metal sphere they made sure that they prioritized writing quality songs. Every single chorus and verse line is carefully constructed to stick in your head so you can sing along with every subsequent listen, such as the lines at the very end of Showstoppers, with multiple voices involved it’s difficult not to be compelled to belt along with the band. Melodic passages and the layered harmonies are superb, filling the sonic space without feeling like an overwhelming wall of noise. Shagohod enjoys messing with different styles to keep the listener on their toes, with songs like Revolver that are basically a straight up blues song with a distortion pedal and Burning Arrow that has a very cinematic vibe with the primary use of synths and pad strings for instrumentation.
The band has crafted a very ambitious and tight record yet it feels like it’s just a stone’s throw away from being a true classic. The structure of just about every song alternating between soft sections and heavier distorted guitar driven ones diminishes the dynamic effect over the course of the record. All the songs are great on their own but experiencing the album front to back can become a bit samey. There are a little bit more layering in the grandiose segments to really punch the listener in the the nose, and those bits could go on for longer than they do to really let the intensity sink into the bones to let the softer sections soothe more effectively. The few times throughout the album that low growls are used to add to the intensity come across very muddy in the mix and lacking in power. Not so much taking away from the music but rather just existing somewhere in the middle whereas with a powerful roar akin to James of Black Crown Initiate, it could crank that energy up tenfold and really add power to the song.
Tin, Gold, Lead, & Blood is a fantastic progressive metal experience. The listener is spoiled for choice with high quality riffs and contagious hooks with enough twists and turns to keep them on their toes. With just the tiniest amount of refinement and tweaking, Shagohod could really drive themselves into the upper echelon of progressive music along with the aforementioned greats Coheed and Cambria, The Mars Volta, and Queensryche.
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