Album Review: Shadowside - "Inner Monster Out"

First and foremost, “Inner Monster Out” is not Brazilian heavy metal as we traditionally think of it. Loaded with melodic artistry and accessible structures, Shadowside ignores the looming legacy and idiomatic trappings of their countrymen such as Sepultura or Torture Squad. What is left in place is a sound more akin to a cross between Lacuna Coil and not-quite-Iron-Maiden. That comparison has surprisingly little to do with the fact that Shadowside, like Lacuna Coil, has a female lead singer.

Furthermore, Dani Nolden’s vocal performance is not what one has come to expect from a female-fronted heavy metal band, especially those not originating in the good old U S of A. Rather than laying down cuts that project some kind of breathy, angelic demeanor, Nolden sells her performance on the strength of her energetic, gritty throatiness that is far better suited to a sweaty, packed dive bar than a bourgeois amphitheatre.

What further’s Nolden’s strong performance on the album is the use of tracking to not only make her voice sound more robust Phil Spector-style, but to conjure concurrent harmonies that create a more dynamic melody.

“Inner Monster Out” makes its mark as an album that ventures to blend the rougher elements of heavy metal with the snappiness and flighty attitudes of power metal. While partially successful in that endeavor, the album at various points ends up sounding simply like a weak or poppy heavy metal album. For all the spot-on percussion and overdriven guitar gallops, “Inner Monster Out” lacks an attention-grabbing punch. To really get into Shadowside’s new effort is to seek it out and have an interest in it to begin with.

For whatever reason, despite solid construction and a lucid understanding of what makes heavy metal work in this particular incarnation, the album never quite pops off the page like it should, and there’s no particularly guilty cause for that. The album is well balanced perhaps to a fault, and the congruency of the songs does blunt any variety that Shadowside meant to display. It’s a frustrating (and unique) issue to perceive that an album is missing one small piece and yet not be able to identify what that piece is.

That’s not the say the album is a failure, however. Far from it. Listeners with a disciplined ear and a modicum of patience will marvel at Raphael Mattos’ ability to seamlessly wind creative, accenting solos into the middle of songs. Rather than take entire bridges or measures to vault himself to the aural fore, Mattos wonderfully blends his best moments into the rhythm of each song, particular for cuts like “I’m Your Mind” or “A.D.D.”

There are times, like the chuggy “My Disrupted Reality” or the pouncing title track, where the band moves from “decidedly above average” to “momentarily transcendent.” The title cut in particular takes advantage of guest appearances (most notably Björn Strid of Soilwork,) to create a frenetic frenzy of crossover metal goodness. Producer Frederik Nortström did a remarkable job on “Inner Monster Out” of creating a sound that was both unique and comfortable.

In an era of female-fronted metal that publicly identifies mostly with the Cristina Scabbias of the world (and by no means am I knocking Lacuna Coil,) it’s nice to see some deviation from the norm. Nolden is a female front who brings some teeth and ferocity to the table. Overall, “Inner Monster Out” is a worthwhile album that doesn’t have any particular faults. Those curious should have no hesitation about trying the album on for size, and will be rewarded with a truly solid effort. However, be advised that while good, “Inner Monster Out” isn’t a life-altering experience.

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