Shadows Fall Over Columbus, Ohio
Sunday, March 30: Newport Music Hall, Columbus, OH
by: Adrian Magers
Thirsty for live music, and pumped full of adrenaline despite the abnormally frigid temperature (who turned to burning Everclear flyers for warmth), a small crowd of central Ohioans, myself among them, waited for 7 o' clock with bated breath, anxious to witness the next stop of Shadows Fall's first headlining tour to begin. After what seemed an eternity, the doors swung open, a crude line was formed, and the early showing concert-goers streamed in.

Luckily there was little delay before the first act, and setup between bands was minimal, as it appeared they were using the same amplification and only had to switch drum sets, plug in, tune up, and play. This kept the momentum going and for the most part the show was flawless as far as equipment and sound goes. The Newport is built like a compacted opera hall, so unlike most small clubs, the music tends to sound less restrained and muffled.

First up was Cephalic Carnage. Though I'd never been a fan of their stop, grind, and go formula chaos, they proved to be an entertaining and worthy opener for the mighty Shadows Fall. It seemed as though the crowd wasn't quite theirs, but the sheer energy and surgical precision they presented won them cheers and polite clapping. Their string section whipped around both heads and instruments, writhed on the stage whilst pounding out their brand of spastic riffing. The instrument abuse led to two broken strings, one from each guitarist. Both were quick about getting back into the groove of things and catching up with their bandmates. Their ambition and talent didn't go unappreciated, but Cephalic Carnage didn't seem to connect with the audience. The highlights of their set included their opening rendition of the theme from the cartoon "King of the Hill" leading into blastbeat mayhem, and their tribute to their Norwegian brethren with "Black Metal Sabbath", complete with corpsepaint masks and synchronized guitar waving.

Next was Unearth from Boston, a band that complicated the headliners well. Just when metal hardcore fusion was getting stagnant, bands like Unearth give the scene a well-needed kick in the ass. This was their first time in Columbus, and judging by crowd reaction, Ohio would welcome them back with open arms. The combination of chunky, triplet-filled riffs and blurring melodic Gothenburg-meets-Priest passages set off applause in the form of flying hair and moshpits, both circular at times, physically illustrating the balance between the two genres blended by Unearth. Further proving the comfort in walking the line between metal and hardcore, they dedicated consecutive songs to fans of each genre. These guys are definitely a band on their way up, and provided they stay consistent with their live intensity and well-crafted songwriting, by the time they tour in support of another album, it might be them headlining.

Shai Hulud played to a divided crowd. Members of the audience in Metallica and Slayer garb (which would include yours truly, donning a shirt of the latter) looked on in half-hearted enthusiasm, as the baseball-capped, hoodie-wearing section screamed back lyrics, letting their love for the band be heard all throughout the set. One particular person showed so much audience participation that at one point the Shai Hulud vocalist chucked his microphone into the crowd for an unexpected guest vocal part by an excited fan. Overall though, I found them to be somewhat mediocre and spent most of their allotted playing time recovering from the last band and preparing for the next. The overall flow of the concert might have gone slightly better if Shai Hulud was second, and Unearth played direct support to Shadows Fall. However, Shai Hulud is better known and have been for much longer than newcomers Unearth.

The lights dimmed, the stage was set, and all hell broke loose as Shadows Fall began a night of crushing melodic neo-thrash metal. As soon as the opening riff of "Of One Blood" kicked in, the crowd went absolutely insane, purging their aggression and energy for the whole duration of the show. The band kept the crowd momentum going flawlessly, never missing a beat or resting much between songs. The band's adept playing abilities were complemented by sound quality most bar bands would kill for. They performed mostly tracks from last year's _The Art of Balance_ and threw in a couple of tracks from their second album including "Crushing Belial" and the aforementioned title track of that CD. It's hard to describe the electricity in the air as the band pummeled the intimate Columbus gathering with their beautiful brand of metal. Lead guitarist Jonathan Donais executed his solos perfectly and, along with fellow guitarist Matthew Bachand and bassist Paul Romanko, belted out riff after riff of blissful sonic malevolence. Jason Bittner held down the beat, leading the band through the various tempo changes and even threw out a few improvised fills. Vocalist Brian Fair added his unique voice over the musical backdrop provided by his bandmates. Shadows Fall are a five-tiered attack, and they especially show this live. It's not strange for me to feel sore or be in a little pain after a concert, but the fact that I stayed out of the pit and in front of the stage the entire night speaks volumes about my impression of the show. If you want to headbang 'til it hurts, see Shadows Fall on their first headlining tour, or check them out on the second stage at Ozzfest this summer. Bottom line, these guys are must-see.

(article submitted 21/4/2003)

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