In Gravity

rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. In Gravity (featuring Scott Kennedy)
02. Amber Screams
03. Guardian
04. Breaker
05. Judgement
06. Dark Age
07. Follow The Cold
08. As Above…
09. …So Below
10. Absolution
11. Rust
12. Kingmaker

Way back in the mists of 2020, SHRAPNEL released "Palace for the Insane", their third full-length album. It was, to put it mildly, a triumph. Previously tethered, and tightly, to the old-school thrash mast, the British band had outgrown their roots and become more sophisticated, more adventurous and more distinctive. Nonetheless, "Palace for the Insane" was still a thrash metal record, and proudly so.

Four years later, SHRAPNEL have undergone a major transformation. "In Gravity" heralds the jettisoning of almost all of their thrash influences, and an enthusiastic branching out into alt-tinged progressive metal, brutal metalcore and straightforward melodic metal. As moves go, it's a bold one, but one that also makes a strange sort of sense. If "Palace for the Insane" broadened this band's horizons, "In Gravity" marks their arrival in a brave new world. SHRAPNEL have changed. Either it works, or it doesn't.

The most striking thing about SHRAPNEL's rebirth is how complete it is. "In Gravity" makes no apologies for bearing scant resemblance to any previous album and refuses to ease us in gently. The album's title track opens, plunging the listener straight into alt-metal waters, while introducing the ethereal clean vocals of new frontman Daniel Moran in the process. With bursts of brutality, not least courtesy of BLEED FROM WITHIN's Scott Kennedy, and an epic, almost futuristic vibe, it sets the tone with such brash abandon that the only sane response is to stand back and be impressed. Not that scowling men in DEMOLITION HAMMER t-shirts won't be horrified. They will. But SHRAPNEL have entered this new era with wholehearted commitment, and it shows in every unexpected move they make.

A recent single and front loaded here for maximum impact, "Amber Screams" is simultaneously familiar and foreign, with its soporific, layered vocals, alt-rock hooks and rugged, groove metal gait. Again, this is a very different SHRAPNEL from the band that released debut album "The Virus Conspires" a decade ago, but their dedication to maximizing their own potential is obvious and admirable. It is also worth stating that they have not mellowed out. "In Gravity" contains some of the heaviest and most vicious material SHRAPNEL have recorded. "Guardian" is blessed with a lethal, melodic chorus, but it grinds and blasts with flagrant death metal intensity; "Breaker" combines spine-wrenching modern extremity with brooding, ALICE IN CHAINS-inspired fever dreams, and a gleeful, trad metal coda; "Follow The Cold" is a sustained hail of machine-gun fire, with a disarmingly simple, melodic hardcore chorus, and several riffs that would grace any CARCASS album.

But as brutal as it frequently is, "In Gravity" is most notable for its spinning curveballs, and "Absolution" takes the prize for most startling revelation. It mutates from deep melancholy and prog-fueled prologue to aggressively windswept verses, a smart, radio-friendly vocal refrain, and artful, instrumental detours dotted with sublime lead breaks from guitarist Nathan Sadd. The arrangement is full of finesse. The execution, brutish and precise. It is both ferociously contemporary and rooted in classic heavy metal songwriting.

SHRAPNEL will be expecting some kind of backlash to "In Gravity", but this is one of those rare occasions when an established band have a bright idea and pursue it to its logical conclusion, irrespective of the consequences. A gamble, perhaps, but ultimately worth it: "In Gravity" rules pretty damn hard.

Author: Dom Lawson
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