Album opener “Saviour” is a dark meditation on the abuse of power, the spoiling of innocence, and the ultimate aberrance associated with modern day religion, particularly the Catholic Church. What could have merely been a straight-forward rocker is accented and darkened with chorus chants, superb lead playing courtesy of O’Keefe, and a diabolical vocal delivery of Junghandel. Musically the following track “Lord of Desolation” is doomier than the album opener and the track is really carried along by Matthews’ bass playing and the occasional gong crash while providing the album’s most memorable mantra “Figures in black will reign supreme/No one wakes from this infernal dream” delivered by Junghandel in a sinister whisper. “Son of Darkness”, arguably the strongest track on the album, is an up-tempo doom masterpiece that channels the best of ‘Master of Reality’ era Sabbath without resorting to mere emulation. In the album’s liner notes O’Keefe claims that “Son of Darkness” is the ultimate collaborative effort of the band members and it shows by highlighting the individual talents of every member.
“The Plague” slows things down a bit compared to the energy of “Son of Darkness”, but the song is no less effective in grabbing the listener’s attention. Again, Matthews’ bass playing really carriers the tune along with some atmospheric guitar strums and blistering guitar leads to close out the tune. “D.E.D” falls on the hard rock end of the spectrum compared to a majority of the tracks on ‘Symphony of Shadows”. While it wouldn’t be fair to call “D.E.D.” filler material, it simply doesn’t have the impact as the rest of the tracks on the album. If “D.E.D.” is the album’s weak spot, “Kill You Now”is the ill-fitting bastard child that somehow manages to work. While the tune isn’t nearly as hard-hitting or raw as “Search and Destroy”, it does seem to channel the best of Iggy and the Stooges with its lyrics, punk-inspired riffing, and handclaps. After the detour of “D.E.D.” and “Kill You Now” the album returns to the realm of doom with“Godless”, another solid slab of doom-tinged hard rock as is the following track, “Hopeless”. Album closer “Eternally Unhuman” aptly closes out the album for its last two minutes alone. The repetitive recitation of “Nothing will ever be the same” accompanied by screams as the music fades out is nothing short of chilling.
It’s difficult to say how ‘Symphony of Shadows’ would have sounded with the continual involvement of Randy Palmer to its ultimate conclusion, but it would be hard to imagine that he could possibly be disappointed with the finished product as completed under the supervision and care of his bandmates and friends. ‘Symphony of Shadows’ is a welcome surprise with its grim lyrical content, chants, doom riffs, and tremendous bass playing. Despite the mix of doom, rock, and punk, each one of these tracks are stamped with a distinct, infectious, unifying sound. It’s sad to know that Randy’s genius is lost to the music world, but this collection of songs—finished posthumously—is an admirable legacy. Based on the strength of all of the players it is hoped that these musicians will continue on, in some form, to bestow their brand of doom metal on their fans.
words by Steve Miller