Shad Shadows’ New LP Assault Is A Symphony Of Dark Glamour And Obscure Beauty
With their latest LP, the Italian duo delivers an exciting new blend of goth, disco, and cinematic elegance.
The new LP from Italy-based duo Shad Shadows, Assault, is both gloomy vintage, and sharply modern. There is a strong element of less is more, but ultimately it is the keen eye for patterns throughout each track and the album as a whole that makes their sound so fresh.
Like a Caravaggio painting, the dramatic LP cover is bathed in darkness and light and the pointed script of the title leads the first-time listener to imagine a classic goth album with plenty of soundtrack elements. And the Italy-based duo definitely serves this up. Soundtracks are one of their inspirations after they initially came together with a mutual taste for the obscure, left field, and moody. However, Shad Shadows – comprised of Alessandra Gismondi and Luca Bandini – have crafted something that goes beyond this, mashing up elements to make an extremely addictive LP with the quality of a cult hit. Surprisingly, an album so classically gothic in its aesthetics serves up pop-adjacent hooks while retaining all the darkness and glamour the duo clearly set out to achieve. This paradox is what makes Assault surprising and very fun on the first listen. And, subsequently, each track becomes more distinct, with details jumping out like film easter eggs.
Luca’s husky and whispered vocals are full of hooks themselves, but the synth work on Assault is also built around bold and memorable patterns that sit seamlessly together. Even within one track, such as the disco-inspired “Rush”, there are twists and turns. Here, it starts with a meandering and rhythmic riff that is covered by a rattling staccato that carries the vocals throughout the verses. It is half a Sisters Of Mercy baseline transferred to the top end, half gritty underground industrial, and it’s in these contrasts that the sound on this album feels both fresh and timeless.
“The storm is beating/killing me/surrender/finally” comes Luca’s hushed voice. The track, like the album, is the dramatic capture of a moment. It manages to conjure up all the theatre of old goth music whilst taking most of its influences from more modern work. The two of them cite, alongside soundtracks, 80s and 90s industrial dance. As a musical outfit, Shad Shadows’ strength lies in a combination of the distinctly undanceable atmospheric quality of cinema plus the instant hooks they create with drums and synths that make for a very fresh combination.
Following this, the descent of “Rush” into a warped sci-fi breakdown proves the unifying elements don’t have to be through aesthetics or convention. Instead, their keen eye for patterns simply puts together the most effective and striking themes throughout. This is mirrored also in highlights like the opener “Black Flowers” with its drawn-out melismatic repeats, and the sparse and metallic-sounding backing of “Velvet Electric”.
Lyrically, Luca and Alessandra are keener on creating atmosphere, simile, and metaphor in snippets and snapshots, as opposed to straight or literal lyrics. It works with the multiple patterns and angles of the album as it allows the listener to choose their own interpretation. And, in the way they blend their vocals, there’s a really cool addition here in how they use their voices as another instrument – with repeated, mantra-like lyrics helping create this effect.
The rest of the album has the hypnosis to it while bringing out all the proof of the duo’s inventiveness and cleverness. You can tell how their commitment to sonic minimalism has forced them to come up with super distinct riffs that are packed with atmosphere. The distinct intro of “Double Drop” comes as a nice surprise towards the second half of the LP, which ends on a grand finale of grand, lush synth pads with “Forever Rave”, carrying the track through with a church-like feel that injects contrast while maintaining the right mood.
Assault is both a continuation and a departure from the 2022 release Prismatic, which took a distinctly more experimental air, looking at the nature of reality and the universe through tracks that theme around identity, technology, and equally danceable hooks. Whilst Prismatic played with texture (layered vocals and dark harmonies on “Universe” vs the ethereal intro of “Make Me Real”) Assault plays with rhythm, keeping steady motifs throughout but then suddenly changing them up to create drama without cramming each track with sound.
It’s a really exciting new angle to their work, leaning into the drama of soundtrack and gothic glamour whilst still maintaining their industrial and disco roots. The outcome is a thrilling LP that will not only satisfy existing fans but also offer diverse entry points for newcomers, catering to varied tastes in soundtracks, gritty synth lines, industrial, or other aspects of post-punk.
Shad Shadows’ Assault is out now, available to purchase both as vinyl or digital album here.
Shad Shadows (IT)
Featured Image by Shad Shadows