Monday, 24 September 2012

Review: ALBUM: 'Beyond The Pale' by Shields

If you like crippling down-tuned riffs, growling bass lines, pummeling drums and emphatic, triumphant vocals then I direct you to this blistering debut album by Leeds medieval power rockers SHIELDS.

'Beyond The Pale' emits a monstrous signal reaching far back to ancient realms where pillaging and other primitive acts scorn the earth. A grave reminder that when four individuals come together to play music, it can be ultimately magical. Yes this band are unsigned and yes this band are local, which pains for me to say it. It pains me because there are so many other bands in Shields' situation; recording music that deserves more attention. However, that aside, Shields are a band on the rise and one can only hope that this album gets the reception that it deserves.

The album kicks in with the creatively named 'My buddy went to Azeroth & all I got were these lousy arrows' which is a whip cracking track on your quest through 'Beyond the Pale'. it features plenty of heavy, in-your-face transitions that strip and then dress right in front of your ears.

The merry doom portrayed in the second track 'Nimoon Bilboggin' takes you by the scruff of the lobe and intimidates the hell out of your face. The sound of a wallowing minstrel, pouring his heart out to a noble, a melancholic medieval passage masked by the heavy tone of the guitars. This leads us nicely into the next track 'Christpuncher'; waves of glistening guitar feedback hinting at the post rock palate this album retains. A clattering and pounding of the tom skins begin to be introduced and lead us into yet another powerful riff, this time with added doom. One of those riffs that secretly makes your fist clench by your side, but not in anger, more of a kind of holy, righteous thing. Have mercy!

If you've had the pleasure of seeing Shields live, you will recognise the following track 'Your Name Is Mudd' as it was a crowd favourite right at the beginning of Shields' inception. With memorable lyrics and a simple yet heavy structure, the song was bound to be a pleaser. It has two notable sections to the song with the first half being verse chorus and the second labouring at one monstrous riff. The riff builds up to a sweet harmonious solo before ending with the triumphant chant of 'Your name is Mudd! and I'll drag you through it'.

The pace of the next track takes you aback, as you are forced into the momentum of 'Wolf Hungry'. The introduction acts as a deterrent to the groove present later in the song, reminiscent of the melodious wanderings of later Pelican or Jesu. Contrasting to the mood you think this track would harness (going by the name), it is actually quite a blissful one. Full of major Thin Lizzy-esque dual melodies and harmonies, it creates a refreshing slant on the stoner rock direction previously noted. This notion is then batted aside by the evil undertones and intervals churned out in 'Mooseknuckle', the penultimate track of the album.

Slow and evolving, the main riff drags its way across the stereo field, becoming denser as more time passes. A rich, unholy atmosphere bellows out like a cloud of black smoke. It sends the listener into a riff-induced trance, only to snap out of it at the onset of the last track 'Slubberdegullion'. The first half of the song produces a galloping thrash-like tempo before entering into monosyllabic medieval intermissions with lyrics sung about the Earth's elements and whores. The whole album reaches its finale with the huge riff halfway through. The more it's repeated the more it kind of drones, and then grooves you didn't notice at first start channelling their way through your body like a cosmic nod. 

The album was self-produced by Shields' intrepid guitarist Owen Wilson (also of Canaya). The production encapsulates the battling nature of the band, with the majority of the production sounding very clean. However when viewed in its entirety, the combination of transparent production and the heavy tone of the guitars and not to mention the ferocious performance, stirs a thick oozing mixture all over your hearing orifices.

Words by T Goodall

Next Shields gig w/ Baby Godzilla and Widows:

Shields have a music video which they edited themselves, with footage from Jez Walshaw and Sean Pattison.
Watch it here:

Look out for Shields in a venue near you and buy their album, its been made available at a 'name your price' on BandCamp. Get it here:

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