Album Review: Shadow Academy – Self-titled Album

Shadow Academy are a progressive rock duo, based in Los Angeles, made up of Dan Avidan, noted for being one of the hosts of the popular Let’s Play Channel Game Grumps, and for a fairly prolific music career which includes being a member of The Northern Hues, Skyhill, Ninja Sex Party and Starbomb.

Joining him we have Jim Roach, an immensely talented musician, a multi-instrumentalist and producer, who in addition to performing in various bands over the years including Punk Rock outfit The Snax or The Rosewood Fall, was the Touring drummer for Hoku, who’s hit single ‘Perfect Day’ was featured in the movie, Legally Blonde. As a producer he has produced and written music for television, including Level Up, Jane By Design and Drop Dead Diva just to name a few. In addition, Roach started his own record label based in California, called Santa Monica Recordings (formerly Red Parade Music) and is responsible for discovering the talents of artists/bands such as The Young Romans, Skyler Stonestreet and Go Tell The Eskimo. Santa Monica Recordings is actually the label for Shadow Academy, as well as Dan’s other releases with Ninja Sex Party, with one of the more recent actually featuring Jim as well, and you can check that out here. Today, however, I will be reviewing their debut self-titled album which was released on April 22nd 2022. 

‘White Whale’ kicks off with phenomenally high energy blaring guitars, and Dan is on top form, truly delivering a stand out vocal performance. The percussion really ties the whole thing together adding an edge, against the softer, more melodic notes off Dan’s vocals and grounding, to counterpoint the high enemy of the guitars. It’s an amazing first track off an album I’m so happy to be able to listen to. 

‘Cast No Shadow’ is very percussive heavy, a deeper, slower booming from a bass drum, and a lighter, faster fill from a cymbal, both meshing together to create an ideal backing to Dan’s accordant voice. This was a new song for me going in as the first track had been released ahead of the album so it was an even greater treat and I really vibed with it honestly, it was powerful and heavy and Dan really pulls it off well. I have previously been told that I talk too much about the vocalists during these things so I have to say that Jim does an amazing job throughout, he’s a true multi instrumentalist and a genuine talent. 

‘Once and Never More’ opens with soft, resonant piano chords that build richly around Dan’s voice, matching his key and tempo and just filling the space with a beautiful atmospheric energy. I had heard this one previously too and I loved it just as much this time as when I heard it a few months ago. It works as part of the larger album but is such a beautifully pure and sincere song that works equally well on its own. 

‘Invisible’ picks up after a slower track, energetic guitars blasting forward, flowing into a nice even tempo percussion and of course Dan’s voice, this has some of my favourite vocal performances of the album, and maybe someone else will hear it to but it reminds me a little of Unicorn Wizard, a track from Dan’s other band, NSP. Either way this track is great, heavy and high energy, a great rock infused number that even incorporates some cool, electronic bits right at the end. 

‘Fall Like a Meteor’ builds up, opening with an electronic, synthy tone, which reminds me of the theme from Stranger Things, before blending in more conventional drums and then strings. The energy rises gradually but is well paced and you just get caught up with this track, it has a superb vibe and is easily one of my favourites on the entire album. I really like the rises and falls in this one, and the drum work in this one especially is amazing. 

‘Wind and Waves Interlude’ is just a short track but I’m always partial to an Interlude and this one is a gorgeous piano driven, synthy melody that just sort of unfolds before you and sticks with you after it’s done. 

‘All for One’ is kinda jarring after the last track but the hammering drive of the strings and drums really capture you nonetheless. It does slow down somewhat but just because the tempo is more subdued doesn’t mean there isn’t an extraordinary depth and complexity to this track. The second half especially is sensational, a true masterclass in instruments and vocals working in harmony and each being truly standout at the same time. It feels weird to say, because I don’t really know them but I’m so proud of Dan and Jim, this album and tracks like this are a true product of their love and passion for music.

‘Down a Rabbit Hole’ slows things down a touch, with sonorous, synthy chords just flowing into one another and Dan is in his element, his vocals meshing perfectly with the melody and you just get lost in the song. The previous track was potentially one of the more technically Proficient on the album but it only made it to 2nd place on my favourites, as ‘Down a Rabbit Hole’ takes the number 1 spot. It’s hard to even place why I like it so much as the entire album is full of amazing songs and it was hard to pick a favourite but in the end there was something about the softer, atmospheric feel of the track that really worked for me. 

‘Night Interlude’ is another piano driven Interlude and just like the last one was hauntingly beautiful and ephemeral. It just tugs at your heart, and as the violin (or is it a Double Bass?) kicks in you are just blown away by the breathtaking sweetness and depth that fills the track, the only complaint that I could find is that it only lasts just over two minutes.

‘Kaleidoscope’ again is almost jarringly high energy after such a soft and profound melody but it’s another whopper so I can’t really complain. I think out of all the tracks on the album I feel like Dan’s vocals are strongest in this one, and that’s not to disparage his talents as not only has he come a long way as a vocalist but all the entries on this album were strong contenders but this one just really showed his amazing depth and richness and the sheer body of talent he possesses as a performer. I really liked the balance between Dan’s vocals and the drums in this track, they worked in a beautiful harmony.

‘Wind and Waves’ opens with a really funky guitar riff before blending into a heavy string fuelled melody. I know I’ve spent how many words I’ve written so far talking about it but they are both just so talented. This song just kicks total ass, and I’m so legitimately grateful to be listening to this music, and that my actual job involves listening to artists like this. 

‘The Other Side’ kicks things off slowly, guitars lead us into another amazing vocal performance from Dan, and I’ve said it before but he really shines during these slower tracks where he’s just injecting all of his passion and experience into it. The song builds as we go on, but it still maintains a solid, slower melody and it really is a great song to close out what has been an impressive debut album.

So that’s what I thought of Shadow Academy’s debut self-titled album and if you want to check that out for yourself then head on over to Spotify. While you’re at it, make sure and check out their website, head on over to YouTube for music videos and more, and if you like the group then you can support them by following their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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