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Shadows Fall Celebrates 20 Years Of The War Within At Starland Ballroom

The Massachusetts-based metalcore icon Shadows Fall celebrates the 20th anniversary of The War Within with a special show, playing the whole album from front to back at the band's second home, the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey. Support came in the likes of Alluvial, NORA, and Fit For An Autopsy.

Shadows Fall

The first band to warm the crowd up was Alluvial. Alluvial is a metal band from Atlanta, Georgia formed in 2017. Their lineup consists of Kevin Muller (vocals), Wes Hauch (guitar), Tim Walker (bass), and Zach Sinister (drums). The band is known for their haunting sound, mixing it with tight-sounding grooves, blast beat drumming, and rapid-fire polyrhythms to create music that captures the darker side of life. Earlier this year, on January 4, the band released their latest EP, Death Is But A Door via Nuclear Blast Records which saw the band take on a more melodic approach than its predecessors. Three out of the four songs on the EP, “Bog Dweller”, “Fogbelt” and the title track “Death Is But A Door” sit at numbers 2, 3, and 5 on Spotify respectively, altogether accumulating a total number of over 430,000 streams.


Alluvial played a short set but they got the blood pumping in the crowd and made sure they were ready for what the night had in store. Muller showcased deep but powerful vocals while Hauch engaged in a wailing guitar solo during the song “Thy Underling”, taken from their second studio album Sarcoma, released in 2021. The pit opened up during “Sacoma” and got hectic once the breakdown hit. The band also played “Fogbelt," a newer song off the latest EP. Hauch made this wailing sound with his guitar throughout the song which almost sounded like it was mimicking someone screaming.

Alluvial got a bit faster with the next song “Exponent” and Hauch played another howling guitar solo during it. The pit was very responsive during Alluvial’s set as they threw down from start to finish with almost every song having punishing breakdowns and intricate riffs. Muller’s vocals were incredible, ranging from clean-sounding mid-range screams to deep and demonic growls that would bring out the animal inside every mosher. The band thanked the crowd for coming out early to see them and gave a shoutout to Shadows Fall and the other bands playing. They closed their set with “Bog Dweller”, the first song off Death Is But A Door. Alluvial's set was definitely a heavy way to start the night off any hardcore fans in attendance were about to be very happy.


Next up was New Jersey’s very own, NORA. NORA is a hardcore punk band hailing from Highland Park, New Jersey, and is made up of Car Severson (vocals), Matt “Portland” Hay (guitar), Steve “Jeff” Chladnicek (guitar), Dan Hornecker (bass), and Chris Ross (drums). The band emerged onto the scene in 1996 with two EPs, Kill You For A Dollar and Theneverendingyouonline, and a Split EP with The Dillinger Escape Plan. The band went on to record three studio albums before going on hiatus after the release of Save Yourself in 2007, later re-emerging in 2013. The band took its name from Nora Diniro who is a character from the movie Pump Up The Volume.


NORA wasted no time getting right on stage and belting out "Last One for the Money," the last track off their 2003 album Dreamers & Deadmen. The pit opened up instantly for the hometown boys, people were throwing down and hardcore dancing once the song started. People started two-stepping during the last part of the song which to me is always fun to see. The two-stepping continued its way into "Deadmen" and "The Goddamn Champion".

The closing breakdown for "The Goddamn Champion" made the pit go rowdier than usual as is often the case with slow breakdowns. NORA brings the energy in their music but also delivers adrenaline rushes on stage by its members, specifically with Severson and Hay. When Severson was screaming, you could tell by looking at him that he was really into it, like he was feeling every word he was yelling out. Hay was a very energetic axeman, always on the move and constantly jumping up and down while playing his guitar. I definitely think that aided in radiating the energy to the pit.


Before the band finished their set, Severson took the time to thank the crowd and congratulate Shadows Fall on 20 years of The War Within. NORA then played "I Should Have Sent Flowers" and the two-stepping that had already been happening showed no signs of slowing down. The band closed with their most popular song "Nobody Takes Pictures of the Drummer" and for this song, Severson brought his son out to sing the song with him. Severson was so happy to share a moment with his son and perform with him on stage. Maybe the kid will follow in his father's footsteps and start a hardcore band, he definitely has the voice for it.

After he sang his part, and I had a feeling he was going to do this, Severson jumped from the stage right into the crowd; everyone swarmed closer caught him, and held him up. Even though their set was short NORA turned the show into an average New Jersey hardcore show and showed the metalcore crowd how New Jersey does it. It was fun to see the hardcore scene come out even just for a little bit, as the night was only about to get heavier.


Up next was another New Jersey-based band; the deathcore veterans Fit For An Autopsy. Fit For An Autopsy is from Jersey City, New Jersey, and consists of Joe Badolato (vocals), Tim Howley (guitar), Pat Sheridan (guitar), Peter "Blue" Spinazola (bass), and Josean Orta (drums). Will Putney also serves as the band's third guitarist however he operates in a more behind-the-scenes role, serving as a studio member and producer for the band. The band was formed in 2008 and is currently signed to Nuclear Blast. Since forming, the band has released six albums, with its most recent one Oh What The Future Holds released in 2022.

Fit For An Autopsy

Fit For An Autopsy kicked things off with the title track of their latest album "Oh What The Future Holds," a brutal intro track that was the perfect opener for the band. They didn't hold back at all and neither did the pit as it opened up from back to front once the first note hit. A circle pit formed during the next song "Pandora" as Badolato called for the crowd to spread wider.

Badolato is a monster of a vocalist and has some of the most powerful growls in the scene. Seeing him showcase it live with ease was always a sight to see, but what is also incredible, is his ability to switch to cleans smoothly. The pit kept moving and more people started to throw down once the closing breakdown dropped. The next song was "Hellions," taken from a split EP made with Thy Art Is Murder and Malevolence called "Hellions". People in the audience were banging their heads when Badolato demanded the crowd to sweep the room and show him something, New Jersey showed him nothing but chaos as the pit became a war zone.

Fit For An Autopsy is a band that always brings brutality to their shows. Their performance was filled with ruthless breakdowns, blast-beating drums, demonic growling, and weeping guitar solos from Sheridan and Howley. The pit was active and chaotic throughout the set, with the crowd throwing down as hard as they could and going even harder when Badolato demanded them to. They closed their set with "Far From Heaven" and the crowd gave it every last bit of energy they had. Badolato sang a little bit in the melodic intro before jumping right back into his signature screaming while Howley played a short but very attentive guitar solo. The band had one last breakdown to play and Orta played an almost tribal-like beat to hype the pit up before the song came to a sudden stop. Once the breakdown dropped, nowhere near the pit was safe. The breakdown was short and slow, but it was enough to make every hardcore dancer lose their mind and throw down wherever they could.


Now for the main event of the evening; The one and only Shadows Fall. Shadows Fall is a metalcore band formed in 1996 out of Boston, Massachusetts. The band’s lineup consists of Brian Fair (vocals), Jon Donais (guitar), Matt Bachand (guitar), Paul Romank (bass), and Jason Bittner (drums). The band graced Starland Ballroom's stage in celebration of the 20th anniversary of their pivotal fourth studio album The War Within, released on September 21, 2004, via Century Media. The album was a critical and commercial success for the band, selling over 300,000 copies worldwide and landing at #20 on the Billboard 200. The album took Shadows Fall to new heights, landing them a supporting role on Slipknot’s 2005 headlining tour and earning them their first Grammy Award nomination for Best Metal Performance. The band celebrated by playing the album in its entirety as well as a handful of Shadows Fall classics.

Shadows Fall

Shadows Fall

Before the band took the stage, a speaker from the radio station WSOU 89.5 FM came on stage and reflected on the station’s relationship with the band. She then introduced the band and they immediately made their way to the stage. Fair walked right up to the front and screamed to the crowd “LET'S GO JERSEY!!!”, and the band kicked it off with “Thoughts Without Words” off their 2002 album The Art of Balance. Fans recognized the song immediately and were already shouting along to the words. Fair stepped up against the barricade to sing the second chorus with the audience as fans rushed to get closer. Shadows Fall's talent is shown in their skill of going hard and heavy but also in their ability to mix melodies and clean singing at the same time. Donais was shredding it up on stage and also playing insane guitar solos. Everyone was so mesmerized by Donais’ playing that no one expected to see Fair stage dive onto the crowd. Without a word of warning, he just dropped his mic and did a full front flip into the crowd. It caught everyone completely off guard but that didn’t stop the crowd from keeping him afloat and getting him back to the stage safely.

Fair wasn’t impressed with how the pit was going and demanded the crowd to give it more on the next song, “Destroyer of Senses,” which Fair dubbed as “a drinking song”. The pit listened and every person that was in general admission went crazy. A circle pit formed for the third song “Of One Blood”, the title track of their 2000 album, Of One Blood. As a sing-along song, all of Starland Ballroom joined forces to belt out the lyrics and it was so loud it practically drowned out Fair’s singing. Fair took his phone out and filmed the entire performance of the song, including Donais’ guitar solo, and sat it right in front of the drum kit to live stream the performance on Instagram, which was a great opportunity for those who couldn’t attend the show to watch it from their phones or computers.

Shadows Fall

The celebration of The War Within has truly begun now. Shadows Fall played the whole album from front to back containing a wide range of fan favorites, and songs they either haven’t played live in a long time or at all. They started with track #1 off the album, “The Light That Blinds”. This song is the band’s most popular, sitting at #1 on Spotify with over 9 million streams. The crowd was on their feet for the entire song, jumping up and down, going crazy in the pit, or just singing their hearts out, whatever they were doing, they definitely weren’t standing still. The next two songs played were “Act of Contrition” and “Stillness”, the second and third tracks of The War Within. One of the most exciting parts about an anniversary show is witnessing songs that bands either haven’t played live in a long time or haven’t performed at all which was the case here. “Act of Contrition” has not been played live since 2006 and “Stillness” has only been played less than a handful of times. It was a special treat for fans, especially those who may have called either tracks their favorite, to finally catch these songs in a live setting.

Shadows Fall

Fair joked about how old he feels since the release of The War Within 20 years ago and asked how many people at the show now have kids since releasing their last album Fire From The Sky which was released in 2012. Almost the entire venue raised their hands and even some of the band members raised theirs as well. Moving through the album, the band played “What Drives the Weak” next, and Fair wanted to see some crowd surfing happening during this one. He commanded the crowd to “get up off your lazy old ass and come high-five me” and fans wasted no time once the song started. For the entire song, security was put to work catching crowd surfers left and right. There was no doubt that some were coming out of crowd-surfing retirement for this moment and Fair was high-fiving every single surfer as they came over the barrier.

The crowd surfing went well into “Enlightened by the Cold” and it got so intense that Fair had to check to see if people at the front were doing okay as they were getting pelted by crowd surfers. Fair showcased a great mix of screams and cleans while Bachund complimented them with melodic clean choruses on “Inspiration on Demand”. For “The Power of I and IFair had the crowd sing one specific line in the chorus, “ALL IS ONE’ and the crowd belted out the part with everything they had each time Fair raised his mic to the crowd. Donais, also known as Johnny Rock N Roll, is an incredible guitar player. Throughout the night, he was engaging in astonishingly fast and complicated guitar solos, it was impossible to ignore him whenever he took over the soundscapes in the venue.

There were three more songs left on The War Within and none of them have been played live in quite some time. “Ghosts of Past Failures,” which hasn’t been played since 2007, “Eternity Is Within,“ and “Those Who Cannot Speak,” both of which haven’t been played since 2014. The crowd sang their hearts out for the chorus of “Ghosts of Past Failures” and during “Eternity Is Within“, Fair told the crowd it was time to count along with Bittner how many beats he could play before going into the guitar solo. Everyone, including Fair, began counting once Bittner started hitting the crash cymbal and they counted a total of 20 beats that led straight into another mind-blowing guitar solo from Donais. The band closed the The War Within portion of the evening with “Those Who Cannot Speak” and the band gave it their all as if it was the final song of the night. There was a pause after another guitar solo and Fair hyped the crowd up asking “ARE WE READY???” and jumped right back into the song before the fans could even have a chance to scream back. The mosh pit was going absolutely crazy with people both throwing down and pushing into each other.

That concluded The War Within portion of the night with Fair jokingly feeling that that set was longer than his hair. With The War Within out of the way, the show was starting to wind down but Shadows Fall had a few more surprises up their sleeves. For the next song, they brought out a special guest to play drums from the likes of Corey Pierce from God Forbid.

God Forbid is a metalcore band from New Jersey whom Shadows Fall has toured and played shows with consistently over the years so it felt fitting to invite one of the members out to the show. Pierce made his way to the drums and without hesitation, the band went right into the next song, an older one called “Fleshold.” “Fleshold” was initially released on the band's first studio Somber Eyes To The Sky in 1998, at the time featuring Phil Labonte (All That Remains) on vocals. The song was later rereleased on Of One Blood after Fair joined the band in 1999. The band paused right before the breakdown to get the crowd ready for what was about to come. Fair then let out a blood-curdling “JUST! LET! ME! DIE!!!!!!” causing the pit to open up wide and everyone was throwing down as hard as they could. Donais played a small wailing guitar solo, adding to the intense breakdown as Fair spun his hair around. His hair is so incredibly long, it reached the photo pit. I’m surprised he didn’t take security out with his hair, he came very close to it.

Shadows Fall

Shadows Fall

Shadows Fall closed their set with “Fire From The Sky”, “King of Nothing” and “Redemption”. Fair gave a shoutout to the younger fans in attendance at the show and remarked how this was one of the best shows they’ve played in their almost 30-year career. The band thanked the crowd for coming out and assured the fans that there will be new music soon. The crowd gave it every last bit of energy they had and Fair once again went up front at the barrier to let the fans up front sing the words to “Redemption”. All of Starland Ballroom sang along to the rest of the song and Fair gave New Jersey one last ‘Thank You’ before the band walked off the stage.

That concludes an unforgettable night, celebrating 20 years of Shadows Fall’s biggest and most successful album; The War Within. The band is set to celebrate another anniversary the next night in Wallingford, Connecticut which is Hatebreed’s 30th anniversary, and will spend the rest of the year working on new music. We don’t know when we will be getting it but I can’t wait till it comes out and I’m looking forward to seeing Shadows Fall again regardless.

Listen To The War Within here.

Shadows Fall

Shadows Fall



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