I’d like to start this review by offering my condolences to Shields for the loss of their guitarist and brother George Christie. Shields, you have my utmost respect for the way you’ve carried on despite the hardships faced thus far. I’m sure George would be so proud of you all. Now, on to the review…
Shields are a London-based 5 piece metal band that have been booting doors down in the underground scene for the best part of half a decade. Their sound is reminiscent of anthemic UK metalcore blended with eye watering levels of down tuned tech metal. Imagine the heavier side of Asking Alexandria thrown into a tar pit with Knocked Loose, and hey presto, you get the crushing delivery of Shields in a nutshell.
With two EP’s already released, the band are ready to release their debut full-length, Life In Exile. Upon spending time with it over the past few weeks, it’s obvious that Shields have blossomed into something that belongs well above the UK underground. If recent releases by Feed The Rhino, Bleed From Within or Palm Reader have been making you all warm and fuzzy inside, Life In Exile is all the evidence Shields need to stand on par with some of the most popular bands on our shores right now.
Brooding opener ‘Intimacy’ is a maze of electronic sampling and background echoes, before bursting into life with a riff Thy Art Is Murder wouldn’t get anywhere near. No delays, it catapults into a start that’s out to smash you from the moment you press play. The records biggest talking point, the bleak natured lyrics of vocalist Joe Edwards, become quickly apparent and continue throughout. They’ve always been present on previous releases, but really got under my skin with Life In Exile.
As the riffs steamroll in, you’re met with vocal hooks of ‘Feels like my last day alive, feels like I shouldn’t keep breathing’ in ‘Black Dog’, followed by ‘I should be dead by now!’ during ‘In The Grey’. Lyrically it’s like rolling in nettles, but hopefully offers a level of catharsis to the band for exposing themselves in such an open way.
Every riff is built for the pit, but their lyrical nature often comes from such a vulnerable place, and that’s the sticking point. It offers a fresh spin on a sound so often duplicated, and throwing away the generic bullshit lyrics of ‘You betrayed me!’ that most bands within the genre sing about is so welcoming. Edwards’ lyrics about life and loss feel like you’re getting to know him personally, witnessing the world through his eyes. They’re delivered with guttural growls and ear-bursting screams, but his pronunciation is perfect and understandable; a style rarely perfected on the metal scene.
There’s also clean choruses from guitarist/vocalist Sam Kubrick throughout, my favourite being that of ‘It’s Killing Me’. His vocal delivery often breaks the record up beautifully, and does well to contrast the unrelenting heavier moments. These influences certainly scream While She Sleeps, and while Shield deliver these efforts better than others, some do fail to stick at times and do feel a little overused.
Interlude ‘N35.E138’ offers softer ambience before closing on the painfully titled ‘Aokigahara’, the track that makes Life In Exile well worth sticking through, showcasing every aspect of the sound they’ve worked to refine by this point.
Is Life In Exile reinventing the wheel? Not really. But it does itself far better justice than most bands hogging the limelight on our shores right now. Lyrically it’s a little rough to bear at times, and the cleaner vocal input of Kubrick does feel overused. Despite a slight lull in the middle, they’re always propped up by Edwards’ lyrics that are so relatable but often bittersweet. I don’t believe in sympathy reviews, but quite frankly they weren’t needed anyway. Shields are true beacons of UK metal’s underground, and Life In Exile is one of the most promising debuts from a UK metal band in years. You could do far worse than giving this your support and attention.
Recommended Track: It’s Killing Me