Feel you are missing a snarl or two, or are feeling a little short on vital and brutal metal provocation in your life than allow The Shadow Masters to launch its aggressive spite on your soon to be beleaguered senses. The formidable return of New Zealand bred metallers 8 Foot Sativa, their new album is a rigorously compelling and vigorously demanding slab of exhausting senses flattening metal. It is a thrilling release from a band with seemingly a new lease of life and vitality to its body and intensity whilst finding an extra incendiary passion and invention to its already established craft.
The sixth album from the Auckland quintet, if you include their Greatest Hits compilation of earlier this year, and coming six years after the acclaimed Poison of Ages, The Shadow Masters finds the band with a new line-up. Alongside founding member guitarist Gary Smith, drummer Corey Friedlander and guitarist Nik Davies have joined the band but maybe more significantly and arguably giving extra heat to the fire in the band’s belly going by the album, the release marks the returns of original vocalist Justin “Jackhammer” Niessen and bassist Brent Fox. It all adds up to a revitalised stance to the band and a new aggressive and intensive depth to the Clint Murphy produced album, a provocation which sets the already firmly established 8 Foot Sativa right on the frontline.
It is hard to say that the album makes a devastating entrance as it opens with As It Burns but it is a start which definitely toys with thoughts as an almost metalcore like engagement with meandering melodic guitar tendrils and heavy metal riffs tease the ears. It is not dramatic but raises good attention which is soon rewarded as the bass begins its persistent grilling and the song shifts into a rapacious determined charge. The vocals of Niessen scowl and growl with venom and intent matching the resourceful guitar enterprise and energy, whilst the rhythms of Friedlander just thump and swing with expert incitement. The track evolves across its length, a melodic weave emerging from within the attack and though fires are not raging from its offering they are definitely smouldering eagerly for what is to follow.
Shadow Masters and Summoned To Rise are the next to stand muscular and tall before the ears, the first a predator of a track with rhythms and riffs clawing at the defences whilst vocals sear the air with adventure and a great expressive range of fury. The melodic grooves and invention within make perfect tempers for the almost grievous voraciousness elsewhere in the track and it is not too long before passions and limbs are rabid recruits to the song’s call. Its successor slowly consumes with a starting melodic wash which goes on to employ sinews and intensity to its persuasion as well as atmospheric harmonies, especially to the vocals which range from guttural to clean with ease. Both tracks rampage and pressurise with imagination and skill to leave a greedy appetite full.
Through the magnetic Feeding The Weak where again the vocals excel in effect and diversity within a carnivorous confrontation littered with mouth-watering sonic skill and creativity from the guitars especially, and the voracious Never Abide whose rhythms, riffs, and vocals come with a rabidity debatably untapped before by the band, the album just makes the strongest convincing of thoughts and emotions. Each track on the album has a unique and riveting narrative of craft and enterprise to unveil, and though at times these enticements take a while to show rather than making an instant appearance, the unique adventure goes towards setting the album and songs like Anatomy Of Hate apart from previous 8 Foot Sativa releases and many other similarly gaited bands.
Visions Of Red is next to rile up the passions to a greedier hunger; jack boot rhythms and senses nagging riffs from bass and guitar just insidious bait for the rasping vocals and anthemic contagion of the song to magnificently lord over. Irrepressibly aggressive it does not deprive the listener of some glorious melodic play and guile either, especially in the searing solo which is so easy to drool over. With their own distinct and malevolent characters both Back To Bare Bone and West As prey welcomingly and rewardingly on the listener, the first with the best bass bred incitement of the album and its successor with a viciousness which permeates everything from vocals to riffs, rhythms to the caustic energy, though again melodies are still given space to acidically erode senses and air masterfully.
Completed by The Second Chance, a track which swings over and leaps at the ears like a juggernaut suspended to a bungee rope, The Shadow Masters is an outstanding antagonistic triumph from a band which debatably have not quite shown just how good they were or could be before. 8 Foot Sativa have now, time to cower and embrace.
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