ShadowKeep - ShadowKeep

11 songs
55:06 minutes
***** ****
Pure Steel


I remember reviewing ShadowKeep’s second album back in 2002. I was totally blown away by A Chaos Theory. The band’s progressive power metal combined with high vocals reminded a lot of the early glory days of Queensr˙che and Crimson Glory. Then the band switched their vocalist and their label, and it took them six years to come up with a new album, which I missed out on. And now, out of the blue, ten years later, the British band is back with their eponymous fourth album on the quality metal label Pure Steel. The biggest and most impressive news is that they once again have a new vocalist, and nobody less than James Rivera, US metal cult singer best known for his vocal acrobatics in Helstar, but also active in countless other bands (Destiny’s End, New Eden,...) over the years.

One thing you should know about ShadowKeep is that they sound very American. Having one of the best American metal vocalists of all time takes their sound in an even more US metal direction. ShadowKeep’s progressive power metal is exactly that: the music is very powerful and muscular, but also the progressive component is not neglected, especially when it comes to complex rhythmic patterns. In the end their new orientation owes a lot to late Eighties and early Nineties US metal, with bands like Vicious Rumors, Riot and of course Helstar coming to mind.

Looking back in history, Helstar had their most popular times in the late Eighties with A Distant Thunder and the even more technical Nosferatu. The latter was followed in 2016 by a sequel titled Vampiro, to rave reviews, by the way. And somehow, ShadowKeep’s new album sounds like an offshoot of that album. Taking the heady prog power metal of the early days, giving it the contemporary production of the new millennium, resulting in something wonderful that is vintage and timeless at the same time.

Right now, the only remaining founding members of Shadowkeep are the guitarists Chris Allen and Nikki Robson, and despite the guys probably being double the age than your average newcomer artist, they still let it rock as if they never did anything else in their lives. Only the two short ballads Little Lion and Never Forgotten don’t really go anywhere, and one wonders if they had not worked better as part of dramatic semi-ballads, but otherwise everything is great on ShadowKeep. The rather short instrumental track The Sword Of Damocles shows off the musicians’ skills, and then we’re left with the regular vocal tracks that are usually rather generous in length, with the concluding Minotaur giving it all at nearly ten minutes running time. This is undoubtedly ShadowKeep’s finest moment, and that even though the band is sounding anything but original or innovative. But their marriage of their incredible progressive power metal with the unique vocal performance of a James Rivera puts this in the same league as Helstar’s classic albums or their recent sequel album. Fans of power metal will once again understand why this genre has been power metal in the first place.

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