Featured image by Reji B. Photography

This review has been a long time coming. Ever since I featured this release on my Post Hardcore Bandcamp Adventures this has been in the works. Life has happened and pushed it back quite a few times, but here it is. Finally. My track by track review of Shadowplay‘s album Almost Lifelike.

This band occupies that sweet spot where you can tell they are influenced by a vast amount of genres and bands, and have a sound that reflects that. They lean more towards the progressive rock side of things, but have very definitive grunge, post hardcore, and post rock influences tastefully thrown in as well. The songs are all reminiscent of waves, with longer (and sometimes shorter) post rock-esque builds that’ll drop out so that they can build again. Building more and more energy with each consecutive build. Everything sounds so crisp and clear in the mix. You can easily focus on an instrument without having to repeat section after section trying to hear it. But either way, this album will grow on you and you’ll love it more and more with every consecutive listen.

1 – Zach Likes Trains

This track is honestly the perfect way to showcase some of the things you’ll be hearing on this album. From intense builds to instrumental jam sections to very rock and grunge inspired vocals. The intro to the track is the first build of many on the album. Slowly adding in layers instrument by instrument until the vocals join the fray. The vocals here are very “soft” but are still very prevalent in the mix. They aren’t drowned out by the other instruments. When the song picks up, Andrew amps up the energy to match the instrumentals, producing a grittier sound than during the intro. Showing that while they may have a long list of influences, this is still a rock album.

The riff that starts the song is present up until 3:30 into the track, and drops out for an even more intense build. This jam will drop out and the starting riff will repeat. Slowly building up until the vocals return for one last phrase.

Vocally, this track is entirely devoid of choruses. Instead, each verse follows the same pattern and fills that catchy, memorable niche that the chorus would’ve.

Track Rating: 10/10

2 – Amira

Unlike the first track, this song has a more conventional “pop” song format. But like the first track, and pretty much every track on the album, there are builds. However, instead of starting from one part like “Zack Likes Trains”, “Amira” starts right off with a ton of energy. Energy that they only build upon.

The first riff, the same riffs that’ll play in the chorus, are a variant of the vocal lines you’ll hear during the actual choruses before dropping out for the first verse. The first verse is all bass, drums, and vocals with some ambient guitars added for texture. After the first verse, the instrumentals transition into another guitar driven build for the pre chorus. Then, the chorus.

This repeats once more until the song jams out for the outro with the lines “If this is a lie I’m addicted” repeating until everything drops out only to leave some synth? Bells? Chimes? Something that sounds great playing the melody of the repeated outro vocals.

Track Rating: 8/10

3 – I’m Kanye West

If you thought some of the builds in the first and second track were epic than boy will this song rock your socks off. Which is fitting based off of the subject matter of the song, Kanye. This is about as massive as the builds will get on this album and wouldn’t be at all out of place on an Explosions in the Sky track.

Two minutes in, everything pulls back for the vocals to shine. It’ll build more and more until the energy is back at an 11 before dropping out yet again. After the next build however, there is a guitar solo. This solo is just another build, but somehow gets more intense than before and at 5 minutes in transitions into one final build. Finally resulting in the epic climax you’d expect from a song entitled “I’m Kanye West”.

Track Rating: 8/10

4 – Basement (Full of Spiders)

This song starts out with a lot of energy and doesn’t let up at all. This is one of the songs that I feel like the vocals don’t necessarily fit 100% the instrumentals and vibe of the song. They’re still good, but I feel like some screams here and there would add to the overall emotion in the first half of the song. The yells do a good job adding emotion, but it feels a lot “weaker” that it could be. Although I get not wanting to start at 110% energy and wanting to build to something (this band and their builds).

There’s even a spoken word part! This is after the energy drops out for another instrumental build. The spoken word part isn’t over the top either, like so many other bands will do. There is a lot of emotion and energy, but it doesn’t feel too forced. it’s just the right amount.

The second half of the song that kicks off at the end of the spoken word bridge is what I wanted the first half to be. The vocals have that extra umph I craved in the first half and is one of the stronger parts on the record.

Track Rating: 8/10

5 – It’s Time

This song is what I expected to hear when I saw the tags on this band’s album the first time. Like a lovechild between progressive rock and grunge. But way more on the grungy side. The intro riff is absolutely perfect too. When I first heard that riff I knew that I’d be hooked on this song. This honestly just a perfect song for people to listen to if they’re not as into songs with slightly longer song formats. There isn’t really anything bad to say about this track at all. It’s a really solid track.

Track Rating: 9/10

6 – All That We Hear

This track opens up with a very subtle acoustic guitar fade in. Like extremely subtle. It actually made me check to see if a song was actually playing on my first listen. There is some electric guitar to compliment the acoustic guitars as well as drums and bass. It’s always very cool to see songs utilize acoustic guitars as another instrument and not the sole instrument of the song.

The vocals also have a very heavy Simon and Garfunkel vibe. Super folk rock vibes vocally.

About 3:10 into the song there is a jazzy/swing transition kind of out of nowhere, that moves into yet another build. The transition was cool, but entirely out of nowhere. I feel like the whole jazzy/swingy section could have been built upon more to make the song a bit longer and not have that seemingly random transition thrown in.

Track Rating: 8/10

7 – Empty Skeleton

This is the type of song that will make you move. It doesn’t matter how you’re feeling, you’ll dance around like an idiot (or like a dancer depending on your dancing abilities).  The vocals are extremely catchy, the guitars are super catchy. After listening to the album for the first time, I found myself sitting there singing various guitar parts and vocal melodies from this song over and over. The drums fit perfectly with the vibe of the song too.

The jam sections with the “oo’s” are probably the catchiest though. But that’s saying something because the rest of the song is just as catchy. But the parts with “oo’s” would be incredibly fun live.

I love this song.

Track Rating: 10/10

8 – She’s Doing Well

This track is very similar to the last one. They’re both incredibly catchy and both will make you dance or move around. The bass part in this song is just great and I love absolutely every thing about it. Everything just fits so perfectly. While not as catchy as “Empty Skeleton”, this song is definitely up there. I have nothing bad to say at all.

Track Rating: 10/10

9 – Spectre

This is far and away my favorite track on the album. The intro is honestly one of my favorite guitar parts from the album. Arpeggiated chords are honestly the way to my heart. Especially when done like this: where the root note descends but the rest stay the same. I love it. Especially later in the song where the rhythm/arpeggiated chords make a return but everything changes.

But wait, there’s more! Just when you thought you’d heard everything from this song, there’s a tempo and time signature change thrown in. And they just jam. This is my favorite instrumental jam/build on the album hands down. They did exactly what I wish they did with the weird jazz/swing transition in “All That We Hear”. They just ran with it. Then transition back into the chorus before yet another jam for the outro.

Track Rating: 11/10

10 – Nobody Knows, But You Might

On my first listen, I thought “Spectre” was the final track. I thought that it ended things so perfectly. This song starts out weaker than “Spectre” but slowly turns around. After a few listens, it turns around completely though and is still a good closer for the album. Really my only big gripe with the album is that “Spectre” isn’t the closer. But I did just end up making a playlist where this track and “Spectre” are swapped and my problem was solved.

Lyrically, this song definitely has the closer vibe going for it. All in all it’s a good song, but having to come right after “Spectre” just makes it seem weaker than it actually is. The lead up to the instrumental jam at the end is an incredibly well done build as well. Ending with Andrew belting out “day” before the rest of the guys just go to town was a nice touch.

Track Rating: 7/10

Overall, this is an incredibly solid album. It took a while for me to fully digest and appreciate some of the songs. The mix is solid, the builds are phenomenal, and the songwriting all around is top notch. Be sure to pick up their album (links below) and to follow these guys on your social media!

Overall Rating: 8.9/10

Shadowplay is:

Andrew Corkery – Vocals
Dan Holden- Guitar/ Back Up Vocals
John Sellers – Bass/ Piano/ Guitar
Ed Flynn – Guitar/ Bass
Jamile Wiggins- Drums

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