01. Shadows of Vanity
02. My Exit in Red
03. Lay Down Your Arms
04. The Spiral
05. In the Absence of Fire
06. Between the Dead and the Deceived
07. For the Taking
09. A Silent Prayer for the Haunted
2007 Lifeforce Records
I'll just lay it all out on the table. I really don't enjoy writing reviews for albums like Hell Within's Shadows of Vanity. It's the writing about the extremes of music, the excellent and the deplorable, which make this job fun, not taking care of the big, fat, meaty part of the curve in the middle. And that's exactly where Massachusetts' Hell Within lands: right smack dab in the middle.
Shadows of Vanity offers up a mix of melodic death, thrash and hardcore, all beneath a candy coating of rock choruses and a super clean production job. In many respects, Hell Within is similar to the mainstream-tinged metal acts that Shadows Fall and the Haunted have evolved into, and strongly emanates that made-for-Headbanger's Ball attitude. It's not awesome. It's not terrible. It's just kind of there.
Shadows of Vanity's mediocrity is cemented in nearly every song, as they alternate between competent metallic riffing and a number of predictable choruses and other trendy elements. The opening title track provides a perfect example as the enjoyable, thrash-heavy intro runs directly into the disc's first appearance of vocalist Matthew McChesney (editor's note: the group has since added a new singer). McChesney displays a wide vocal range throughout Shadows of Vanity, showcasing everything from guttural growls to the occasional slightly blackened high pitch scream, but it is his gritty singing that just rubs me the wrong way. It's one part Avenged Sevenfold, one part nu-metal and zero parts good. I hate to dog a band for one element of their sound, but nearly every song on this disc displays some decent potential in the metal realm and then gets torn to shreds after an excess of catchy rock choruses is injected.
However, there is one ray of hope on Shadows of Vanity. The album's shortest track, "Between the Dead and the Deceived," somehow managed to secure a place where it could exist free of frustrating rock contaminants and its melodic death metal foundation accompanied by persistent double bass, high screams and a bit of thrash is by far the most enjoyable part of the record. Sure, it's still a little overproduced and even a tad unoriginal as far as the European metal sound goes, but in comparison to the rest of the tracks, its praise is well-deserved.
Bottom Line: Hell Within's Shadows of Vanity is a chunk of well-produced metalcore that can be enjoyable when they turn on the thrash and frustrating when they fall back on predictable rock elements and some less-than-stellar singing. This record is mediocre. The End.