Shodan- None Shall Prevail (Album Review)

June 27, 2023


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With the release of the System Shock remake last month, it seems like a great time to look at the most recent album from Polish progressive death metal band Shodan, who takes their name from the antagonist of that game.  The musical Shodan celebrates their tenth anniversary this year and their third effort None Shall Prevail also makes noticeable shifts to their sound.  Both Protocol of Dying and Death, Rule Over Us merged the rawer intensity of earlier Vader and Decapitated with plenty of grooves and shifts into all styles of extreme metal.  None Shall Prevail has retained this foundation but opted for a much fuller sound that results in some darker, colder atmosphere alongside the brutality.  It’s a natural progression, and while not every moment lands with the same impact this direction is a welcome one for Shodan and showcases their ability to keep trying different approaches.

Comparing the opening track of Death, Rule Over Us to the opener of None Shall Prevail, you’ll notice some immediate differences.  Where the former opted for a rawer sound where the drums popped out and the tonality was a little bit thinner, the latter has a much fuller production where the drums, guitar, and bass are able to build naturally and create a thick and dense atmosphere.  It gives off a slightly more modern approach compared to Shodan’s past efforts, which felt like they were pulling a bit more from the classic Polish death metal sound.  This suits the mix of slower, groovy build-ups and blasts that the songs on None Shall Prevail go for, and things start off in spectacular fashion on “Tamed in Unison”.  Listeners are immediately met with mid-tempo blasting and drum work that’s a bit more diverse than your average death metal approach, and I love the way that the drums move from groovier approaches into short and concentrated blasts as the rest of the band uses melodies to create a dark, tenser atmosphere.  The solo on “Tamed in Unison” is also stunning, leaning into a bit more rock and blues influence to create a mix of melancholic, beautiful tones that showcase the progressive side of the band.  From this point forward Shodan hops between slow burning instrumentation that lets its layers build up to intense and bleak sounding climaxes alongside some more brutal grooves that still capture their roots.  I appreciate that None Shall Prevail goes for a more concise approach compared to some of the more bloated and lengthy progressive death metal out there, and they cram a lot of different extreme metal and hard rock elements into this thirty-nine-minute effort.  There are a few rough edges, such as the opening of “Despair Snares” which sounds a bit off to me, and the interlude “Lords” does feel unnecessary on an album of this length.  Some of the more straightforward blasting and groove-oriented writing does blend together as well, and Shodan continues to be at their best when they play up the flashier solos and darker melodies on songs like “Demortality”, “Ethos”, “Nighttime Violators”, and the title track.  Nothing is outright bad and there’s plenty to enjoy about Shodan’s songwriting that hops across death metal genre lines, but I was hoping for the whole album to reach those same soaring heights as “Tamed in Unison” and it didn’t quite get there.

Guitarist Szczepan Inglot also handles vocals on Shodan’s material, and he brings a raspy scream that is able to transition to a lower pitched growl.  This brings a lot of variation to the performance, as you never know whether you’re going to get the ear-piercing qualities of the higher shrieks and screams or the more powerful, layered sound of the growls.  Whether intentional or not, there’s something about the inflection that makes Shodan immediately identifiable as a Polish band, and that’s not a bad thing as they bring the same level of weight and aggression to each verse.  There are some back-up vocals as well, with songs like “Staring Back at the Abyss” incorporating some gang vocals that once again bring in some additional genre influences beyond your standard death metal. 

Shodan has made some real tweaks to their production and songwriting for album number three, bringing in a bit more dark, desolate atmosphere and a fuller sounds that allows the melodies and solos to reach greater heights than before.  This works well with their variant of progressive death metal that’s heavy on the grooves and calculated blasts, and while some of the material blurs together and doesn’t reach the same heights as “Tamed in Unison” or the title track I’ve still found myself coming back for more.  I’d like to see Shodan continue to explore the sound they’ve established on this album, as with a few more tweaks it seems likely they’ll compose material that’s truly stunning from beginning to end.  None Shall Prevail is available from Time to Kill Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg