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Shadow Theory, The: Behind The Black Veil

Behind The Black Veil is the first album from The Shadow Theory however it isn't necessarily the first time you will have heard the musicians involved. Formed round guitarist Arne Schuppner (Complex 7) and vocalist Devon Graves - aka Buddy Lackey (Dead Soul Tribe/Psychotic Waltz), The Shadow Theory are completed by Kristoffer Gildnelow (Pain Of Salvation) on bass, Demi Scott on keyboards and Threshod drummer Johanne James. With such prog metal credentials in attendance, it isn't a surprise that Behind The Black Veil is a concept piece, with the story based round a man who wakens from a nightmare, only to enter another, before waking from that one and finding himself in a different one, and so on until he struggles to differentiate dream from reality. What is slightly surprising though is that musically rather than being a straight ahead prog metal album Behind The Black Veil is instead more like a technical King Diamond effort with some heavier moments thrown in and the odd startling piece of melody. There are plenty big riffs and bags of intricate musicianship, but those aspects never really become the focal point of the album as they struggle to come to the fore against the atmospherics of the disc.

The overall mix is a little confusing, with the music tailored to fit the concept and push the story along in a way that sometimes leaves the album itself flailing about direction wise. Big riffs, flute interludes, brash (although not growled) vocals, eerie themes and the odd almost acoustic passage creates a heady mix that when it works is quite stunning, but all too often falters under the sheer weight of ideas that it attempts to carry. Graves is a charismatic singer, which allows him to play the part of storyteller very well and his ability to deliver convincing vocals in a variety of styles is a talent indeed. For most of the time he has a harsh, eerie snarl, but some passages are spat out with a stunning force, then there's a threatening whisper, while "Selebrate" has such a melodic delivery, I actually found myself being reminded of Tyketto/Vaughn vocalist Danny Vaughn! More than anything though I found myself consistently being drawn back to the phenomenal drumming of Johanne James, who once again proves to be the best virtually unknown drummer on the planet. His insistent pulses are interspersed with awe inspiring fills and flurries, but it is the effortless changes of tempo, which leave you almost agog at his abilities and it is all done in a way that remains integral to the songs.

Promising more than impressive, The Shadow Theory have produced a decent debut that is a worthwhile listen, although does suggest that a little more focus is required to really make a lasting impact.


Track Listing
01.I Open Up My Eyes
02.The Sound of Flies
03.Ghostride
04.Welcome
05.By the Crossroads
06.Selebrate
07.Snakeskin
08.Sleepwalking
09.The Black Cradle
10.A Candle in the Gallery
11.A Symphony of Shadows

Added: May 20th 2011
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: The Shadow Theory
Hits: 2933
Language: english

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Shadow Theory, The: Behind The Black Veil
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-05-20 10:23:51
My Score:

Behind the Black Veil gives Graves' pre-Deadsoul Tribe fans what they have been asking for for years. It mixes his Psychotic Waltz days with bits and pieces from the Deadsoul Tribe material while also introducing a strong lineup few can ignore.

However, initial plays of the disc may turn some off because of the way Devon Graves' vocals have been mixed. They are behind the main instruments on most songs and this does reduce the impact of the album, given this is a concept album about "a junkie rock star who seemingly moves from dream to interconnected dream only to eventually realize that he is dead and has become a player in an evil spirit's eternal symphony." During the busiest parts of the album, Graves' lyrics cannot be heard as well as they should be. Therefore, fans who don't have the patience to sit through the album for several plays or listen to it on a good set of headphones are unforunately going to miss out.

Those who will give the album a chance, though, are in for a treat. They will discover a whole new dimension of Graves' vocals. Admittedly, these songs see him blending his unique Psychotic Waltz style with his new-found yet equally mesmerizing Deadsoul Tribe style. Graves not only sings aggressively, but he also imparts powerful melodic tension and restlessness to portray to intended mood. He whispers, screams, and sings in an impossibly beauitiful melodic tone -- sometimes all in the same track. Anyone who is not moved and blown away by the melodic intro of "Welcome" is not breathing! His theatrical singing on both "A Candle in the Gallery" and "A Symphony of Shadows" evoke the finest moments on a King Diamond album while "By the Crossroads" sounds like a re-worked Deadsoul Tribe song from their criminally underrated swansong, A Lullaby for the Devil.

I remember buying both albums directly from the band almost 10 years ago when I first heard of this great German prog metal band, Complex 7. Arne Schuppner is their guitarist and main songwriter -- hopefully, with this project guitarist Arne Schuppner will get the recognition he deserves. Despite loaded with the chops, Schuppner always plays to the strength of the compositions, rarely going overboard with extended solos. His touch is more felt in the complex arrangements and his solid riffwork. He puts his mark on the the very intricate "Snakeskin," for instance. The riffing during the intro blends seamlessly with the symphonic keyboards and King Diamond-like vocalizations. One cannot help but think what would happen if they decided to explore this kind of writing a bit further on a future release.

The opening song, "I Open Up My Eyes," is easily among their most 'complete' pieces, laced with Graves' rarely heard flute playing as well as multi-tracked vocal harmonies and Kristoffer Gildenlow's ubiquitos fretless (?) bass work underneath the whole arrangement. Likewise, Johanne James' playing on this track is easily his best on the album. James was actually the last member to come into the band, as Mike Terrana was supposed to do the drumming originally. Maybe James had little time to learn the tracks and thus couldn't incorporate his full influence into them. He is one of the finest drummers around, so hopefully he and Gildenlow will provide a more prominent rhythm section if they ever decide to release a follow-up to this.

Who cannot go unmentioned is keyboardist Demi Scott. It is he who is responsible for the blueprint of most tunes. Scott explores the inner parameters of symphonic music without taking away from the core sound of the music. His symphonic experimentation renders each song a soundtrack to a horror movie -- just give a listen to "The Black Cradle" to get the idea. Scott literally pushes the whole band to find new aspects of themselves to inspire their songwriting. The vocal melody of this song is also stunning. Graves' melodies are so unconventional yet so emotional and gripping. He is probably the only vocalist with such complex vocal lines. There is no doubt how much he has influenced the likes of Oyvind Haegeland from Spiral Architect.

When Devon Graves released the last Deadsoul Tribe album, A Lullaby for the Devil, easily his most diverse album with the band, most fans chose to ignore it or shun its exploratory nature. Hopefully, the same people will embrace this band (as well as the Psychotic Waltz reunion) and they will release a sophomore album. Remember, the first Deadsoul Tribe album was just a taste of what was to come. Then, they released the more focused A Murder of Crows, and everything changed.

Shadow Theory, The: Behind The Black Veil
Posted by Brian Block, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-04-20 18:18:16
My Score:

After a successful start with Psychotic Waltz, and more recently the band Deadsoul Tribe, Devon Graves has come back for thirds in one heck of a way. The Shadow Theory consists of not only Graves but also Arne Schuppner (Complex 7), Johanne James (Threshold, Kyrbgrinder), Demi Scott, and most notably, ex-Pain of Salvation bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw. This cast can definitely be deemed an all-star cast, mostly made up of progressive metal artists, and it shows in every way.

Not only is Devon Graves a great singer, but he plays flute exceptionally well. Flute playing in metal was definitely one thing that intrigued me while listening to the album. Beforehand I assumed that it would sound too different, almost not right, but there is nothing wrong with it on Behind the Black Veil. Right from the beginning the flute stands out on the opening track, 'I Open My Eyes', where the great guitar counter melodies bring it out perfectly. The songs are mostly simple progressive-power metal compositions, except for a few like 'A Symphony of Shadows' and the opener. The feel of the album varies from heavier, creepier music to softer more soothing melodies. Also there are a lot of distinct differences in the songs, unlike most of Graves's Psychotic Waltz stuff. 'Sleepwalking' is a great example of this because it sounds very much like a Pain of Salvation song, probably because of Kristoffer Gildenlöw. With softer vocal sections mixed with some heavy bass influence, it almost feels like it came of an early Pain of Salvation album.

The vocals by Devon Graves, or Buddy Lackey, whichever you prefer, are exceptionally good. He has mastered many different styles and all that adds a lot to the album. Ranging from the Jethro Tull sounding 'Selebrate' to 'A Candle in the Gallery' which sounds very much like King Diamond, this becomes quite self evident. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the drumming of Johanne James, which is very good and heavy, yet very articulate.

The production is very good, packing a heavy sound that enhances every bit of the album. Everything sounds perfect, and I especially like the way the bass and keyboards are put into the mix.

If you don't already have this masterpiece from 2010, then you should definitely pick it up. Any fan of Pain of Salvation, King Diamond, and of course Psychotic Waltz will really enjoy this great piece of music. The heavy atmosphere conveyed throughout the album leads to a great feel that keeps me interested every time I listen. For a great release the Shadow Theory gets 4 stars.





Shadow Theory, The: Behind The Black Veil
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-12-28 10:21:13
My Score:

A Symphony of Shadows

When talking about progressive metal supergroups, it's hard to imagine a better lineup than that of The Shadow Theory. Consisting of the legendary vocalist Devon Graves (Psychotic Waltz, Deadsoul Tribe), Arne Schuppner (Complex 7) on guitar, Kristoffer Gildenlöw (ex-Pain of Salvation) on bass, Demi Scott on keyboards, and Johanne James (Threshold) on drums, it's obvious that there's no shortage of talent here. For the most part, everything about Behind the Black Veil lives up to the expectations I would set for this cast of musicians. This concept album is filled with intriguing compositions, plenty of variation, and a distinct sound to top it all off. If you're a fan of Psychotic Waltz, I would definitely give Behind the Black Veil a shot. More often than not, supergroups in this genre tend to be more focused on showcasing their technical capabilities than creating high-quality compositions, but that is fortunately not the case with The Shadow Theory. This is a dark, heavy, and melodic prog metal album that should satisfy most fans of the genre. There's a surprising level of originality here that gives The Shadow Theory an ambitious sound - something sparsely found among prog metal supergroups. All in all, Behind the Veil is an impressive and promising debut from The Shadow Theory that's sure to make waves throughout prog metal fans in 2010 and beyond.

The music here, although not revolutionary, is still much more original than your average run-of-the-mill vanilla prog metal band. Aside from the obvious Psychotic Waltz influence from Devon's distinct vocals, a lot of the album sounds like a more progressive and symphonic King Diamond. This dark metal concept piece just reeks of influences from The King, which is always a good thing. There's also a bit of a Pain of Salvation tinge during the more melodic sections with multiple vocal harmonies. A song like "Sleepwalking" sounds like something that could have come off an early Pain of Salvation album (which isn't surprising, considering that Kristoffer Gildenlöw is here). One thing that I found interesting when listening to Behind the Black Veil are the Jethro Tull influences - something that is very rare among progressive metal bands. "Selebrate" sounds very Tull-esque, not to mention the bonus cover of Jethro Tull's "Sweet Dream" (a bonus track on 1969's Stand Up). All in all, this is a pretty eclectic album, and is a nice break from the seas of clone bands that seem to populate progressive metal nowadays. Of course, another major asset to The Shadow Theory is the group of musicians here. The drumming from Johanne James is heavy, yet very intricate and precise - surely a highlight on the album. The vocals from Devon Graves (a.k.a. Buddy Lackey) are also great; he's just one of the best vocalists in the history of prog metal.

The production sounds really great - it has a clean sound and packs a powerful punch. The symphonic keyboards sound perfect in the mix, and are never too loud (which is a frequent complaint of mine in melodic prog metal productions). The dark atmospheres are conveyed well, so I have no knocks in terms of production.

Conclusion:

Behind the Black Veil is a great debut from The Shadow Theory. It satisfied all of my expectations and provided a unique and highly-enjoyable prog metal experience. This isn't quite worthy of a masterpiece status, but it'd be hard for me to give anything less than a confident 4 stars. Hopefully this doesn't turn out to be a one-off project that will be forgotten about over time - I could see a second album from The Shadow Theory that even surpasses this one. Recommended to fans of melodic progressive metal!



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