On their third, eponymous album First Came the Shadow have widened their musical scope with a layered album with wonderful, complex orchestration where the instruments infiltrate each other. At times the music sounds elusive, sometimes dense and engulfing.
This way, the album´s tracks vaguely refer to Plato´s “Allegory of the Cave” where chained prisoners believe the elusive shadows on the wall to be the real world. It is only when light makes them discover that the shadows are fake, that they can become free, but then they are bereft of the illusions the shadows made and they are engulfed in confusing fragments of reality. Well, the allegory has been discussed for a couple of thousand years, and will hopefully undergo such argumentation for the next couple of millenniums.
The opening song, ”Resilience”, fades into your ears by a delicate strumming acoustic guitar repeating a melody line with soft bass as an airy synth emerges and shivers a bit before disappearing and the soft drums take over holding a slow pace as another guitar appears. Soon the drums begin to push the music harder and harder while the guitar is still repeating the melodic tunes until a tremolo line appears and levels up the music. It is a wonderful transition that fuses into a bright and shimmering guitar and captures the melodic line. At the base, the bass begins to follow the melody line as the drumming is in front of the cinematic music driving it forward with a bright glistening guitar hovering above the now heavily distorted, yet translucent, guitars. It is a complex piece of music with textured layers that is surging and yearning until it simmers down to a calmer pace and fades away.
Throughout the album there is wonderful interplay between the drums and the bass and other instruments. On ”Shadows”, guitars are strumming together a bit dissonant giving a foreboding sense. The drums begin hitting in harmony with the melodic and heavy bass. The bass becomes a premonition of what the shadows really are. The constant strumming from the guitars has small changes in the flow until they open and begin to play a melody on strings along with a discordant guitar which rises up to higher pitches before it all simmers down and a quiet part of the track starts with versatile works building up to a surge while the drumming gets faster and more intense with double takes in the rhythm. The bass provides the bottom with its melodic rhythm before the rhythm section disappears and the guitars swirl around a melodic theme. When the bass and drums reappear they drive the music forward with the circling guitars keeping on, but they settle with long takes until the drum takes over and the song fades away with echoes from the drums.
Through the six tracks on the album, the band is using a wide range of Post-Rock elements to keep the listener immersed in their music. It is amazing how they carefully composed the music in a way that makes each track heavier, more versatile, and denser than the previous. Using the versatile drums, the way the bass lays a profound melodic foundation, and the extremely versatile use of Post-Rock guitars, from surging dense crescendos to yearning high-pitched tremolo guitars soaring above the denser part of the music. The third track further explores the versatile music that radiates through their music.
”Lights” takes us on a musical journey opening with soft strokes on the six strings until the bass begins to lay the deep resonating as an indistinct sampled voice is heard immersed in the sonics. After the vocals leave, the guitars emerge as the bass slowly pushes forward and then the guitars begin tremolo takes as the song seeps forward in a dreamy tempo. The drums begin to pace and a wonderful tremolo soars above before the tempo increases and the guitars fuse together with heavy distortion and in the distance, a dissonant guitar plays a melodic theme. Everything melts together as the drumming becomes more intense and the low-end bass holds the melodic theme at the bottom of the flowing music.
The album continues with ”Refuge” that lures you in with soft sound effects and a distant guitar that melts with the sound effects before erupting out from the rumbling and the drums in a heartbeat. A long, soft part simmers down to near silence before a heavy, distorted long crescendo pours over you lifting the music to denser sonics with the drum hammering on while melodic sounds are buried in the dense, yet translucent music. The high-pitched tremolos are drowned only to fight back at the end of the track leading into the intense track ”Burning”. Here, the guitars fill all the space with a repetitive melody as the pace fastens. The layers of guitars are manifold and the mood turns to yearning as the guitars fly higher and higher. The music accompanying the rocketing guitar is heavy yet sparkling.
If we still follow Plato´s Cave Allegory, it is a natural conclusion that the last song on the album, ”Fragments” is the most tumultuous and energetic as it becomes clear that the shadows were just an illusion and in the burning bright light everything becomes clear. This track has a glissading cinematic opening, like gliding on black ice. Repetitive strumming opens up new avenues for the music to take and it fuses with a distorted guitar and then a tremolo rises from the heavy soundscape and the bass ignites the melody. Then the music becomes very heavy and dense bordering on noise, until it simmers down. But yet again, the pace becomes faster and the sound denser. In the layers, there are melodies and an indistinct voice screams faraway. The music becomes intense, but it simmers down and opens for a strumming clean guitar. A staccato rhythm begins with all the instruments joining, surging, and intensifying slowly to a strong but dreamy part with distorted vocal effects until it fades away with a pulsating synth.
Before this release, the band has released two descent Post-Rock albums, Premonition in 2018 and Aridity in 2020. It seems they have kind of regrouped, taken a deep breath, and released an expressive, varied, emotive, and captivating album that should be a part of any Post-Rocker´s collection.