Jacob Bannon has always been a beacon of creativity in a number of different mediums – vocalist, lyricist, artist, record label founder – but his musical output has seemed particularly fertile of late, (three albums in three years; one from Converge and two from his long-gestating Wear Your Wounds project). Shadow Of Life adds a fourth record to this bustle of musical activity, being the debut album from death metal ‘supergroup’ Umbra Vitae. While Bannon will be the focal point for many, the band feature an enviable cast of underground luminaries from The Red Chord, Job For a Cowboy and Wear Your Wounds as well.
Just shy of 26 minutes, Shadow Of Life is a short, sharp shock to the system, with barely any sonic let-up during its running time. A brief atmospheric, layered guitar intro, Decadence Dissolves leads into a barrage of blastbeats, tremolo picking and barbed vocal ferocity on opening song proper Ethereal Emptiness. It takes Umbra Vitae just 30 seconds to execute a change of pace, as the band slow the tempo right down and execute a solid, headbanging groove.
This sense of idiosyncrasy continues throughout with Umbra Vitae fitting in twice as many ideas than your common or garden death metal band in around half the time. While the songs themselves are sonically abrasive throughout, they expertly utilise dynamic tempo shifts, giving the impression of constant motion and a resolve to never sit still. This is both a blessing and a curse; while the bombardment of ideas is thrilling as the black circle spins, not many of the ideas stick once the turntable has stopped. But as an expulsion of frenetic creativity and explosive ideas, Shadow Of Life is a rip-roaring descent into darkness that is sure to thrill those with a penchant for ferocious death metal.