At some point in the last ten years John Shades aka Cris Profaner reformed his late 80’s underground thrash metal crew Apostasy and began to reclaim the old glory of extreme thrash metal with a prolific number of releases, ultimately producing two full-lengths that’d realized and pressed beyond their obscure legacy. Around 2021 the Vina del Mar, Chile-based artist had essentially closed that chapter beyond live obligations, eventually sealing off the band as a studio project. As it turns out all resources would instead focus on his new and very different band Shadows, an early-to-mid 80’s style sinister heavy metal/hard rock project which aims itself at an era of heavy metal where songcraft was still very much influenced by the flash and bang of late 70’s arena-filling haul as it entered its era of greatest self-indulgence. ‘Out For Blood‘ is the adept realization of that core idea done right, a short debut album full of all-killer, ear catching pieces which do not fit neatly in the present and do not escape references to the past but bring to life an impossible to forget beast of shredding, creeping and wailing heavy metal nonetheless. It is a modest introduction which asks very little of the listener beyond a half-hour ear but no doubt if given some serious support these decades-crafted sensibilities could serve more than a certain knack and a handful of kicking creep anthems.
There should be a bit of a generational divide in terms of how Shadows‘ style of anthemic yet dark heavy metal is received per any available reference. Today’s heavy rock enthusiast will probably default to hearing a bit of Ghost in ‘Out For Blood‘ but, even ‘Opus Eponymous‘ was quite a different feeling despite similar influences coming from the more harmony rich side of the late 70’s heavy rock spiritus and a melodic/riffcraft influence from 80’s Mercyful Fate. Either way the feeling should be recognizable enough and these songs are tuneful in a similar way but have their own voice; The more 80’s attuned scholar should pick up the buzz of early Ozzy Osbourne solo records and some nearby Priest influence in the speed-metallic rhythms of this debut otherwise and for the lead guitars it’d make sense to point to influences from a bit of glam rock theatre in addition. For most listeners these comparisons won’t quite work entirely, these songs don’t reflect the ‘Stained Class‘ inspired ride of records like ‘Melissa‘ and instead have a bit more of a biting and stamping nature which the band suggests are long-standing inspiration which spans from Alice Cooper‘s darkest to the denim and leather of early Mötley Crüe, at that point I suppose there is no need to further pollute the stew beyond suggesting fans of anything King Diamond related will particularly enjoy the haunted spirit, the atmosphere, the vocals and the sinister creep that this album leads with.
So, to be clear this is a classic hard rock influenced heavy metal album which is not at all the usual New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal minded deal. The quality of this recording does not hinge itself on sounding like other bands, tributing the old ways as a point of personae, nor does it concern itself with anything beyond a melody-forth approach to songcraft which is then enhanced by the high energy cut of their riffs and the eerie atmosphere which they’ve managed to drape charged-up rhythms with; For a half hour record with three interludes ‘Out For Blood‘ does its best to strike the mind with quality songs which consistently bear some matter of memorable fang as their point of purpose while also building up a narrative which is one part vampyric haunt (“Nightstalker“) and another Jack the ripper ride (“The Ripper”, “Maniac“). The seven main pieces could, and do, very well stand on their own as single-worthy tuneful songs but I’d emphasize up front that the interludes and foreshadowing bring necessary cinema to the experience and ingratiate quickly as a point of dark charm. This general modus was evident back in 2021 when Shades self-released Shadows‘ debut cassette tape, ‘Into the Nightmare‘, which’d presented mostly complete versions of three songs (plus one interlude) that’ve ended up as strong features on this relatively short but high impact full-length. What we get with ‘Out For Blood’ is essentially the other half of the album and some cleaned up performances in terms of lead guitars and vocals.
Shades‘ vocals are perhaps the most clear point of improvement beyond ‘Into the Nightmare’ as we find a bit more of the mean rasps, haunting harmonies, and generally more skill applied to these pieces. When making a direct comparison between the first version of “Into the Nightmare” and this new one it isn’t initially clear that the guitars have been reconfigured a bit but the vocals are clearly different, much improved takes which bring a bit more energy and, more importantly, characterization into the song. The accent applied to the word nightmare sounds like “night-murr” while this’d initially sounded strange I’d found Shades‘ performances had generally brought more personality to the full-length than expected and the accent is quite a strong feature which couldn’t be easily replicated by just any group. The juxtaposition between these eerie radio-ready heavy rock sized pieces and the growling, humming and generally early King Diamond-esque expression of the vocals (see: “Forgotten Rites” + “Out For Blood”) makes for a record that feels strangely outside of time, too good to be obsessive retro-bilge yet too dark to have carried on back in the day.
While I felt the one-man hype tornado firing up in my brains listening to this record and feeling the blood charged by its striking guitar performances some closer examination of their very detailed songcraft and the not-so-simple melodic ideas communicated within each ~3-4 minute piece I’d begin to appreciate that ‘Out For Blood‘ had more than a concept and sound design behind it gig. Songwriting that has developed its style in the classics so rarely appears with any thoughtful presentation or performance in mind and in this sense Shadows cuts right for the throat, aiming for the quickest way to hot blooded catchiness that is their own and not plain reference-mashing. They’ve essentially created a sound which is hyper-focused on its effect and produced about seven points of exploration within this sound, keeping it short enough that I could truly wallow in the atmosphere of it all for hours on end. The truly perfect stamp that this record left in my mind was the ride from “Nightstalker” through “Sacrifice” those first three pieces not only tell a story but find this medium between big arena rock camp and songs you just want to hit repeat on ’til they’re worn out. This’d end up being a double-edged dagger for the sake of quickly wearing out the hum of it all by over listening, a mistake on my part. I couldn’t ultimately sing equal praise for every song on the album after the twentieth or so listen and only felt like the true standout points on the record overall (beyond the first three pieces) were limited to the semi-theatric charge of “Forgotten Rites” and its strong vocal range alongside my favorite song on the record “Maniac”.
It was somewhat interesting to see my original take on ‘Out For Blood‘ stretch from seeing it as an “all killer no filler” record to one which I’d say has at least four essential pieces and a ton of future potential. Longtime readers might recall this was where I’d ended up with every Ghost (or similar) record I’d ever reviewed, too, and this is a symptom of accessible music in my hands as it wears a hole wherever prescribed as my mind has nowhere to go beyond clipping the bush down to its most essential branches and moving on. No question that Shadows stand out in a crowd, their work is genuine article enough and this record is a feat well worthy of recommendation as an unquestionably inspired debut which will be stuck in your brain-craw for the foreseeable future… especially if you are inclined towards the darker side of popular heavy rock and traditional heavy metal. A moderately high recommendation.
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