Clear your throats and get ready to mosh, metalheads. No, Metallica isn’t back, but they might as well be, in the form of the thrasher phenomenon Shadows Fall. Hailing from Springfield, MA, the raucous quintet of dread-swinging, scowl-faced rockers are surprisingly schooled, methodical professionals. And if they rip your ears off, so be it.
After years of climbing that dubious ladder to metal precedence, namely through OZZfest, Shadows Fall has established a uniquely stanch international fan base. Their most recent album, “Threads of Life,” was acclaimed on all ends, and was produced by the renowned Nick Raskulinecz, who also worked with the Foo Fighters, Stone Sour and Rush. Bassist Paul Romanko talked with Maximum Ink prior to their upcoming Sounds of the Underground tour that unleashes this summer.
MAXIMUM INK: How did you musically conceptualize your first single off the album, “Redemption?”
PAUL ROMANKO: That was fun. That was me and Nick playing around having fun. That song had a lot of changes from its initial incarnation to what it became. One of the productions where we slowed down the verses, the bass almost dropped out, just really hanging back and laying some simple notes on the bottom ends really underneath the guitars. It was really one of those ‘less is more’ kind of things. The less I did really made the bass jump out and take over a little bit.
MAX INK: How relevant do you think the message of your band is within the metal scene?
ROMANKO: I think a lot of it is a personal message, and a lot of it can be interpreted by individuals, and that’s kind of the way we’ve always approached it. We are five different individuals and there’s really not a common thread on a lot of subject matter that you could say we’re ‘all for one’ on. People have a varying opinion on certain things, and for that reason we tend to not get on the soapbox and preach too many specifics, just because there is difference of opinion amongst ourselves. And it just proves that people with different views can come and work together.
MAX INK: Does it ever boggle your mind when you’re just trying to make that one riff...
ROMANKO: Everything in the music industry boggles my mind. I really try not to get caught up in everything, because anything that’s supposed to make sense usually never adds up. It’s the only thing were one-plus-one can equal five, and equal half that at the same time. I just go with it. People are gonna like what they like and you hope that you have one moment that people enjoy what you do. We’ve never written a song or done anything just to be big, or because we think it is going to be cool. When we started we were that underdog band. It’s always been about writing good music and doing what we enjoy and pleasing the five of us first.
MAX INK: Describe the moment when you said to yourself decided that music was ‘it.’
ROMANKO: Well, I stopped playing a little bit while I finished my degree at the University of Massachusetts. I was debating on going to law school to be a music lawyer in entertainment law, actually, but then I never got into because this felt really good at first. It’s been a real slow and steady build ever since, and there hasn’t been any reason to stop. I love it, and I love the people I play with. It’s a great situation to do something you really love and have it be your main livelihood and source of survival.
MAX INK: You’re also a columnist for “Guitar World’s Bass Guitar.”
ROMANKO: Yeah! I got a call from Troy from Mastodon, who was doing that, and I told him I thought he was doing a great job with the column and he said, ‘I think this is my last one…’ Then I got a call from the folks there. I’ve been doing it for just over a year now, and the last one that came out was the last I’ll be doing for a while. I really enjoyed writing, it was awesome to write about all the things I’ve learned and all the different approaches and techniques.
MAX INK: Do you feel that metal has to have negative connotations?
ROMANKO: I don’t think so, at all. I think that all our lyrics are pretty positive. We’ve never cursed on a record. Me and Brian always joke; I say, “If you’ve got an English degree and you can’t find a better word than ‘fuck,’ then come on, dude!” Even the energy… Just because there’s power and energy that is maybe even dark, doesn’t mean it’s negative, because everything needs that negative balance to have the positive. The ‘evil’ stuff just gets a little cliché. I mean, how many times since aggressive music has kind of reared its head have we seen that stuff? You just gotta start treading on new territory.
MAX INK: Let’s talk about the Sounds of Underground tour a little.
ROMANKO: Touring is great. We get to travel and see a lot of places, meet a lot of different people, and you get different perspectives on life, experience different cultures, and you play your music in front of a lot of different people almost every night, and that’s the part of it that I think is the most important thing in the world. It really keeps you going. You learn how to get along with people, like your friends and your band mates, and how to cope in different situations. You learn a little psychology, how to live with a bunch of people in a small place for a long period of time. But it’s a lifestyle, and it’s strenuous on the relationships. It can be difficult, but it’s what I love to do. Once you see the kids and you’re at a show, all that’s gone. That’s when it’s just awesome.