It only took Metallica three albums to reach this level of quality, but if Shadows Fall’s last album, The Art of Balance, was their Ride the Lightning, this fourth album is definitely their Master of Puppets. While Shadow’s Fall’s previous album had some great songs and ideas, it was uneven. In contrast,The War Within doesn’t stop rocking until the end of the disc.

The band is definitely the product of their influences: thrash metal guitars, hardcore punk vocals, death metal drumming and progressive rock time changes that combine to make a sound that really shouldn’t work – but it does – and beautifully. Frontman Brian Fair’s emotional vocals and lyrics give songs like "Enlightened by the Cold" and "What Drives the Weak" depth, but it’s the twin guitar attack of Matthew Bachand and Jonathan Donais that really shines throughout the disc.

The War Within contains some of the best dual guitar work since the peak of In Flames or Judas Priest. Like those bands, Shadows Fall doesn’t sacrifice hooks for technicality – you’ll be headbanging to the songs long after the album ends. One of those rare albums that can instantly be labeled a classic, people may soon be comparing Metallica to Shadows Fall instead of the other way around.

Grade: A

The War Within is currently available.