This one is special. The first album with a new label Cold Transmission. Pedro, Victor, Herr, these aren’t just a band, they are friends. IAMTHESHADOW is one of the first bands I discovered in my goth renaissance and I have a deep knowledge of their catalog. This album has a story with it. A triumph over adversity, a celebration of reaching a scarred hand up to pull yourself over the ledge. I wanted to start this review by being honest of what this album was to me before I hit play. Now that you know the magnifying power of this lens I am listening through I am going to set it aside and tell you a story about the pure passion and beauty in these 12 songs.
Pedro Code – Voices, Guitar, Synthesizers and Programming
Vitor J. Moreira – Synthesizers
Herr G – Bass
All songs produced, mixed and mastered by Pedro Code
Design & Artwork by Yvonne Kiel
Music is a magical thing. Like a relationship. It has a lot of parts and means a lot of things in different moments. I want to give a little background to help you understand this moment. Portuguese band IAMTHESHADOW are a synth driven darkwave sound which builds around Pedro Code’s voice. It is one of the most expressive and passionate instruments in the current dark music scene. The type of old school crooning black silk that would be just as much at home 30’s jazz as it is today. Since 2016’s Everything Is Nothingness this band has stayed true to an immersive core of feeling driven poetry stretching skyward from rich soil of driving rhythm. Embracing the Fall from 2018 took that raw concept to a new height of exposed Nick Cave style narrative with tender dark ballads and the addition of Antipole’s Karl Morton Dahl adding guitar accents. Pedro and team then turned to other projects like The Dream Collision until signing with longtime friends Cold Transmission Music. It was in Cologne Germany for the Cold Transmission festival I witnessed IAMTHESHADOW live and fell in love. When you love an album you expect to hear a band bring it to life on stage. Those special bands find a way to play those songs with new intensity and passion. To open your eyes wide like the first time. So it was in a distant land on a small stage in Cologne.
For two years I waited to see the next place Pedro, Victor, and Herr would take me. Just as the album was nearly completed a tragedy befell with Pedro being robbed of his laptop, and more importantly the masters of the entire album. Huge sections would have to be completely re-recorded. We would all be waiting a little longer for Pitchblack. It was well worth the wait.
The change in tone from the previous offerings is apparent right away. This record does not build itself around the best baritone voice in modern goth. It uses it as an arrowhead propelled towards your heart on silky flowing movement. Part of the glory of the previous three records was using a recipe of stripped down driven passion in a world of ultra produced post punk. Here that passion is just as present but layered inside an intricate and dynamic musical backdrop that gives each concept a voice of it’s own. Additional vocalist Diego Merletto (The Frozen Autumn), Kadri Sammel (Bedless Bones) Yvette Winkler (Vaselyne) were brought on to do vocals. I can say from experience of being offered a duet with Pedro it is an intimidating feeling. Putting my voice next to his sounded panic inducing. Here it is taking something already beautiful and captivating then placing it in a rich sensual frame.
This album cooks. IAMTHESHADOW has always had the ability to move you. With swelling slow turns and blood given form. Pitchblack is striking percussion. Walking slide foot bass lines. Cascading synth sounds rippling in endless alternating progressions. Here the passion is not tender, or heart wrenching. It has teeth, gravitas, and attitude. More of a Depeche Mode Music For the Masses .These songs are for dancing. For fine red wine. For staring into the eyes of the one you love.
Lets talk about some of those tracks:
Always – Track two leans in with that slashing motion and crisp snare snap. The keys here take center stage and Pedro’s vocals lift and support them. “When you realize, don’t wait”. It’s this urgency of both lyrics and the music. Crackling energy that ignites passion and stirs longing.
Shivers – I’m not sure if this song will end up being a single but i fell in love with it from the start. It has a lot of that classic IATS feel. The train getting further from the station delayed guitar riffs. Pedro’s voice strides to the forefront and is larger than any room I could image. “I played my hand, hoping faith would last” I would dance through the rain on a street full of watery explosions while this song played forever.
Ouroboros (Feat: Kadri Sammel from Bedless Bones) – So Bedless Bones from Estonia is a criminally underrated band. As I said I can’t imagine the giant brass stones it takes to sing next to Pedro. Ouroboros is a perfect name for this track because the voices blend so perfectly it is hard to tell where one starts and the other stops. “Face down on the floor, you are my shadow” Powerful EDM flavor meets traditional darkwave. This song is a dance floor giant.
Awake & Asleep (Feat. Diego Merletto from The Frozen Autumn) – Another weaving smoke tendril that you can’t quite grab a hold of. To have a weapon like Pedro’s voice and to leave it in the background to craft a song this strong is such a bold choice. It really breaks up up flow of the album in the best way. This chorus is such a bold change and hard hook.
When you love something and it still finds a way to surprise you, that is true power. That’s what Pitchblack was for me. The anticipation of knowing something you were going to love was coming. Building the expectation beyond what could be met. Then being amazed when it passed that expectation. This is already the #1 selling darkwave album on bandcamp on day #1 and there is a really good reason for that. Take this journey. Fall in love with music that has soul. This is a record that makes you feel something. That stirs that ancient instinct inside our hearts.
This is a fantastic artist and a fantastic album, and an equally fantastic review. IAMTHESHADOW in particular has been in very heavy rotation in my personalized playlist over recent weeks. The words in this review resonate with me deeply; thank you for writing them.