I first got into Shatter Messiah around the release of their debut Never to Play the Servant, back in 2006. Masterminded by Nevermore/Annihilator touring guitarist Curran Murphy, the Akron group stood out for their clear defiance of metal categorization and for having anti-religious lyrics that were surprisingly well-written and mature when compared to most extreme metal tripe. Unfortunately, they seemed to go silent for a while and fell off my radar.
Orphans of Chaos, their fourth full-length, continues the group’s penchant for diversity among the metal genres. The overall template is right in line with the likes of Nevermore and some of Rob Halford’s solo work but one will find plenty of groove riffs mixed with intricate, borderline death metal tempo shifts, occasional King Diamond-style harmonies, and vocals that run the spectrum from classic metal cleans to near death metal rasps.
However, this particular album does differ by having an outlook that is somehow even darker than its predecessors. There is a degree of grunge and possible sludge influence on the appropriately titled “Doom,” which is packed with dissonant guitar grinds and expressive vocal layering ala Alice in Chains. Even the catchier vocal lines on songs like “Shallow” and “Cold and Alone” sound distraught.
This tonal shift is further enhanced by the change in lyrical themes as the themes of religious questioning are almost entirely absent. In their place is a pseudo-narrative that reminds me of Candlemass’s King of the Grey Islands, as the songs are a series of first person accounts revolving around themes of drug abuse and suicide. The band has had a few songs in this territory on their past efforts but I don’t think it’s ever sounded this oppressive.
Overall, Orphans of Chaos is of the same high quality as Shatter Messiah’s previous releases and offers much of the same intense genre blending. Those familiar with the band shouldn’t be alienated by the darker tone and this wouldn’t be an invalid starting point for fans already acquainted with Nevermore and Dream Theater’s heavier outings. Here’s hoping the band can get itself back out there and perhaps to an even more noteworthy point than they were before.
“Cold And Alone”