Shadows Fall: Life Lessons
“King of Nothing” features guest vocals by Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe, whom Shadows Fall have known since the late Nineties, when LOG still called themselves Burn the Priest. Blythe lives just two hours from the Virginia studio where Shadows Fall recorded Retribution. “He drove up on a Sunday afternoon to cook us dinner while we were tracking," Bachand explains, revealing the singer’s previously unknown culinary talent. “And we looked at him and said, ‘Hey man, wanna growl on this one?’ ”
Donais composed all the leads and fills on Retribution by looping the guitar rhythm and then noodling around until he came up with something he liked. When he’s shredding, he usually uses an MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay and a Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Wah. Donais explains, “A lot of times I’ll just step on it to give me that high-frequency cutting sound, especially if I’m doing legato parts, but I won’t actually pump the pedal. My favorite lead players are the melodic guys like [Testament’s] Alex Skolnick, Dimebag Darrell, Zakk Wylde, Randy Rhoads and [Thin Lizzy’s] John Sykes. They can shred, but their solos are as memorable as the choruses.”
After Donais and Bachand finished composing the songs for Retribution, they showed them to bassist Paul Romanko and drummer Jason Bittner, who worked them into final form. The composition process went smoothly but took longer than the band had expected. Shows had been scheduled between the writing sessions, and Shadows Fall were also meeting with labels in the hope of finding a new home. As a result, the songs were far from complete in January 2009, when they began recording with Zeuss, who had produced all their records before Threads of Life.
Bachand says, “We actually didn’t even have many vocal ideas by the time we started recording. When we were recording the guitars, we were a little nervous because we were struggling with licks and countermelodies and didn’t know what was gonna happen with the vocals. In the past, the vocal melody has often determined the music. Recording the music first could have caused some trouble for us, but luckily everything worked out.”
On the album, Donais played his ESP signature and Bachand used his Ibanez MBM signature. Both guitars were strung with DR strings and recorded through a Rivera Knucklehead Tre with an OD808 Maxon overdrive. Each guitarist played only the parts that he wrote. Donais says, “There are always little nuances and differences when people play the same riff, and we wanted it to be as tight as possible. It saves time and money and prevents a lot of fights.”
Shadows Fall considered releasing Retribution through an independent metal label, and spoke with a number of them. In the end, they decided to selfrelease the album on Ever Black Industries. Ferret Records was hired to handle marketing and promotion, and ILG was assigned distribution. Donais says, “It’s great for us because we own everything. We’re open to receiving guidance, but we have the final say over everything we do. We’ve been around long enough to have learned the business, so it’s finally time for us to take control.”
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