A bittersweet taste of a complete work that will never come to be

When Warrel Dane suddenly passed away midway through recording this album in December last year, the music world lost a singular talent, a unique voice and remarkable wordsmith who, with both Nevermore and Sanctuary, was responsible for some the best metal releases of the past 25 years.

Shadow Work is an unintentionally very apt title for this album, as it represents a mere shadow of what these songs would have been like had Dane lived to see their completion. Even as they stand, this is a very good collection of songs that will forever serve as his epitaph.

There’s an almost immediate familiarity to Shadow Work. Dane’s dark, mournful tenor floats in easily over the  drum beats and Eastern scales of the intro track before the heavy, minor-key chug riffs and double kicks of “Madame Satan” drop in under spiralling guitar runs, the singer’s typically nihilistic lyrics seemingly foretelling his own demise. It is instantly recognisable, although probably too close for comfort: “Disconnection System” sounds at first almost like a rehash of “Narcosynthesis” and while it’s hardly a crime to want a song to sound like one of the best tracks off one of the best metal albums of all time, it’s perhaps a little too self-referential. “As Fast as the Others”, too, could have been lifted directly from This Godless Endeavor. “Rain” adds a sprinkle of variety to the album’s dense prog-metal barrage that otherwise sounds very much like Nevermore.

That can hardly be a criticism though – Nevermore was, as mentioned, one of the best metal bands of all and it’s clear that Warrel Dane wanted Shadow Work to be the album he never got to make with that band. Unlike his previous solo issue Praises to the War Machine with its Gothic pretensions, this is a dark and heavy progressive metal album, a bittersweet taste of a complete work that will never come to be.

  1. Ethereal Blessing
  2. Madame Satan
  3. Disconnection System
  4. As Fast as the Others
  5. Shadow Work
  6. The Hanging Garden
  7. Rain
  8. Mother is the Word for God