Before they head out on the road at the end of the month with Damageplan, which features former Pantera members Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul, Western Massachusetts metal voyagers Shadows Fall have some serious preparing to do.
Longtime fans of thrash metal, the guys want to make sure they're at their best to impress the Pantera dudes, who, many years ago, inspired them to pick up instruments and learn to play. Having just released The War Within, the fourth and strongest record of their career, Shadows Fall aren't worried about shining onstage — they're more concerned about making an impression after hours.
"We've been doing lots of liver push-ups and 12-ounce curls," said singer Brian Fair, "because those guys can drink. I'm sure at this point we can hang with most folks [when it comes to partying], but touring with Dime and Vinnie is really stepping up to the plate."
At the moment, Shadows Fall have a good excuse to party themselves green. The War Within debuted at #20 on last week's Billboard albums chart, the highest entry ever from an act on the band's label, Century Media. The album — a musically precise slab of angry barking, unrepentant thrash, blustery metalcore and melodic, Iron Maiden-flavored licks — is a triumph of brute power and striking accessibility. In addition to retaining Shadows Fall's underground following, The War Within is likely to ensnare fans of bands like Thrice and Thursday, which could keep Shadows Fall on the charts while they tour throughout 2005.
Over the years, the band has learned that the best way to promote underground metal is on the road, which explains why Shadows Fall toured for almost two years straight for 2002's The Art of Balance, tearing it up on Ozzfest, the Take Action Tour 2003, the MTV2 Headbangers Ball Tour and numerous headlining club outings. "We've built this thing up from nothing," Fair said. "Being out for so long, it was only a matter of time before it started to break into the mainstream a little bit and sell really well."
While Shadows Fall's wrecking-ball riffs and thunderstorm beats are more affecting and well-defined than most modern metal, Fair's conflicted lyrics are just as integral to the band's sound. A spiritual health nut with a weakness for lots of beer, the singer is constantly battling the two sides of his persona, hence the title The War Within.
"I looked back at the last couple of years and realized how far off I am from some of the goals that I set for myself," Fair said. "After two years of drinking and chaos on the road, it's easy to slide off course. I try to find a balanced and positive life and focus on things that aren't too materialistic, but that's difficult when you're riding around the country in a tour bus every night partying."
The lyrics and video for "The Power of I and I" reflect this dichotomy. But instead of reacting with rage or hopelessness, Fair looks within to purify his soul. "It's really a unity song based on the whole Rasta philosophy of I and I, the world within yourself," he explained. "Instead of always looking outward for inspiration and salvation, you can find that strength within yourself, and it's just a reminder that everyone's in it together.
"I studied a lot of Rasta philosophy and multiple religions in college," he continued, "so I've always been attracted to that lifestyle. At first I got into yoga for stretching and learning to focus on different muscle groups for things like skateboarding and snowboarding. But then I started to see how you could feel the energy flow on a spiritual level as well."
The priority single from The War Within, "What Drives the Weak," examines the other side of Fair's personality and exposes the weakness that he can't or doesn't want to escape. "It's about waking up after a night of insanity, feeling f---ed up, but then getting f---ed up to do the same dumb sh-- again the next day," he said. "It really becomes a weakness when you fall into that cycle and give up responsibility and use that as a crutch to get away with murder."
A video for "What Drives the Weak" was recently shot in Los Angeles by Zach Merck (who has directed all of the band's videos). While the clip could have easily lent itself to the kind of barroom shots and concert footage of Shadows Fall's other vids, this time around the band wanted to do something more conceptual.
"It's a really dark video of us going through this house and seeing images from the past about the effects of alcohol," Fair said. "We did it in this crazy, burned-out old crack house. You walk into the house and open different doors and see different images of chaos, whether it's someone passed out with a bunch of bottles or someone smashing up a room with a baseball bat. It's like this $5 tour of the crack house, and we're playing in the living room."
Shadows Fall's fall and winter tour with Damageplan and the Haunted, according to Century Media:
- 10/26 - Winston-Salem, NC @ Ziggy's
- 10/27 - Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
- 10/28 - Tampa, FL @ The Masquerade
- 10/29 - Lake Buena Vista, FL @ House of Blues
- 10/30 - Tallahassee, FL @ Floyd's Music Store
- 10/31 - New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
- 11/2 - Houston, TX @ Numbers
- 11/3 - San Antonio, TX @ Sunset Station
- 11/4 - Fort Worth, TX @ Ridglea Theatre
- 11/6 - Tempe, AZ @ Marquee Theater
- 11/7 - Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues
- 11/8 - Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues
- 11/10 - West Hollywood, CA @ House of Blues
- 11/11 - San Francisco, CA @ The Grand Ballroom at Regency Center
- 11/13 - Spokane, WA @ Big Easy Concert House
- 11/14 - Seattle, WA @ Showbox
- 11/15 - Boise, ID @ Big Easy
- 11/16 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Lo-Fi Cafe
- 11/17 - Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre
- 11/19 - Minneapolis, MN @ Quest Club
- 11/20 - Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave/ Eagles Club
- 11/23 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Rock Club at Station Square
- 11/24 - Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
- 11/26 - Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
- 11/27 - Philadelphia, PA @ The Trocadero/ Balcony Bar
- 11/29 - New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
- 12/1 - Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Theatre
- 12/2 - Montreal, QC @ Spectrum De Montreal
- 12/3 - Hartford, CT @ Webster Theatre/Underground
- 12/4 - Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom