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'The Shadow Masters' is the fifth album from 8 Foot Sativa but it is my first encounter with the band, who have been around since 1998 and come from Auckland, New Zealand. It makes a nice change to actually see a band from that part of the world show what they can do and, by all accounts, 8 Foot Sativa (weird name, but if you check up on the definition then it sort of makes sense) are pretty big news out there. They've even released a 'best of' compilation to celebrate ten years of recording. They play, what I would call, Modern Melodic Death/Thrash fused with some Metalcore and they make a pretty good job of it, although I suspect that the wider exposure they appear to be receiving of late will see them lost in the myriad of bands who are currently doing a similar thing.

This album, which has been out since August, also sees the return of original vocalist Justin 'Jackhammer' Niessen, original bassist Brent Fox and new guitarist Nik Davies. Upon doing my usual research, this seems to have given the band a new lease of life as the majority of reviews are pretty positive and I concur that there are quite a few favourable things to say. Songs are short, sharp, melodic but heavy, very catchy and full of a good amount of groove (although, at just over thirty minutes, 'The Shadow Masters' is a very brief album but I suppose that never really did Slayer any harm!) Neissen's vocals are indeed good for his chosen style. He isn't a monotone screamer, managing to deliver a variety of harsh vocals, and he has a fairly good singing voice for the cleaner sections. I also love the clear and polished production by Clint Murphy. All the instruments can be heard, which makes some of the bass playing stand out very nicely, but I know that some of you might find it too clinical. Unfortunately, what I do find clinical are the drums of Corey Friedlander. Yes, they sound great but are way too perfect, which is a problem I'm finding with so many of the heavier bands these days. Tricks of the trade are becoming a very common thing with metal drummers and I would prefer it to be totally 'real', but Corey... please tell me if I'm mistaken!

What makes this album stand out more for me, though, is the guitar work of Gary Smith and Nik Davies. Riffing is razor sharp and the solos, which aren't necessarily long but always in the correct place, are approaching the standard that Per Nilsson of Scar Symmetry might be happy with (and if you know me well enough by now then you'll know that is praise indeed). So, there are some plusses and minuses all round but if you enjoy the Gothenburg sound then you could do a lot worse than checking out 8 Foot Sativa. And I will be interested to see if they can continue to expand their fanbase beyond the confines of New Zealand and Australia which is not an easy thing to achieve. I would also like to add that for a self-released album the artwork, booklet and packaging are of a very high standard.
8 Foot Sativa Records
Review by Rick Tilley
August 2013
1) As It Burns
2) Shadow Masters
3) Summoned to Rise
4) Feeding the Weak
5) Never Abide
6) Anatomy of Hate
7) Visions of Red
8) Back to Bare Bone
9) West As
10) The Second Chance
New Zealand
"Songs are short, sharp, melodic but heavy, very catchy and full of a good amount of groove..."