Shadow Puncher make their extreme metal debut for Nosral Recordings with an album that seamlessly incorporates a host of different styles and elements in a brutal sound.
Shadow Puncher was formed by Max Kevin Ølstøren as a solo project in 2016. Influenced by a host of bands Metallica, Pantera and Sepultura and more extreme ones like Abated Mass of Flesh, Max began recording his own music. In 2017, the Shadow Puncher released two albums, The Path of Challenges ep and the debut album, The Throne of Justice and Love, which was quickly followed up by another ep, No Despair. In October 2017, Shadow Puncher was signed to the new extreme metal label Nosral Recordings and work began on the debut album for the label.
From the very beginning the album has a dark and ominous tone. The intro track has what initially sounds like a dungeon door being opened and as a person is walking, a bit of the Lord’s Prayer, followed by what sounds like a church organ and some other noise, that moves right into “Shekinah” complete with some pig squeal vocals and pounding rhythm. The grindcore-like beginning then shifts to a bit of a black metal droning riff that has other guitars layered over the top making for an interesting mix. The verses shift back to a slow grindcore like riff and vocals with guitars carrying the song. A rapid double bass line is in the background but a bit lost in the mix dominated by guitars and vocals.
“Lord of Lords” opens up with a very fast, guitar riff that alternates with a black metal like droning during the verse sections with the machine gun fire drums never letting up. Vocals again lean toward the black metal/death growls that were also present in the first song. Unfortunately, the song is punk rock short in length, but still very cool. “Conflict” has a more traditional black metal feel to it and has some good guitar work layered in at several points during the song to provide an interesting contrast to the black metal riffs. Much like “Lord of Lords” this song clocks in similar to a punk song, but given the amount of notes/second, maybe this makes sense as there are more than enough here for more than one song. Live, these songs may need to be short so the band can catch their breath as they would be an all-out assault.
The tempo slows back down with “The Belt of Truth” and goes back to a more grinding pace similar to earlier in the album. This song employs some studio effects to good use and sees the return of some pig squeal vocals. While lyrics are often unintelligible on albums like this, some are clear. From a subject matter perspective, Christian themes abound and this song in particular is focused on Ephesians 6:14, which discusses “standing firm with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…” and preparing for the attacks of the devil.
“The Agony” sees things start out in what seems to be a different direction completely with a cool keyboard intro and opening riff and brighter tone that would be at home in a hard rock song. When the verses begin, the speed picks up and the drums revert to a pounding rhythm and death growls come in but the overall tone is brighter and the song itself is closer to a mainstream metal song than others on the album but still no less intense. “No More Suffering” sees a return to black metal with a song that very much reminds me of something off an Antestor album, with some pig squeals thrown in.
Max Kevin Ølstøren has put together quite an impressive release that fans of extreme metal should check out. This is one of those albums that you need to listen through in its entirety as there are suble differences between the tracks that will appeal to a wide audience. I say this a the pig squeals and grindcore are not top on my list, but while present on this album, they are not the whole album, there is a lot more here. Nearly all of the typical drawbacks to solo projects are not present, production is good and the quality of performances across the board are very high. Shadow Puncher is a great addition to the Nosral Recordings lineup and helps further establish them as an up and coming label for extreme metal.
Written by John Jackson
3. Lord of Lords
5. The Belt of Truth
6. The Agony
7. No More Suffering
Max Kevin Ølstøren – all instruments and arrangements
Record Label: Nosral Recordings, Feb. 2018
Lyric video for ‘Shekinah’