Formation and Somber Eyes to the Sky (1995–1997)
Shadows Fall was formed in 1995 by guitarists Jonathan Donais and Matt Bachand, then good friends from the local music scene. Bachand had previously been a founding member of a death metal band and Donais a member of the metalcore band Aftershock. By 1996 the band had found a complete lineup with the addition of Damien McPherson (vocals), Mark Laliberte (bass), and David Germain (drums). Also in 1996, Adam Dutkiewicz performed live drums to fill in for Germain. By late 1996, the band recorded and released a demo titled Mourning a Dead World, of which only about 200 copies were produced. It consisted of the songs Lifeless, Suffer the Season, Fleshold, Forever Lost, A Souls Salvation, and Deadworld. McPherson decided to leave the band, and was replaced by Philip Labonte in 1997. Around the same time, bass guitarist Paul Romanko, formally of the hardcore band Pushbutton Warfare, was recruited as a permanent replacement for Laliberte, who had originally joined on a temporary basis. Now with a more solid lineup, the band released its first EP, To Ashes, with Dutkiewicz playing as a session drummer. The band's name, according to Bachand, comes from the title of a comic book published in the early 1990s.
Shadows Fall toured the New England area opening for artists such as Fear Factory and Cannibal Corpse. On November 30, 1997, the band released its first studio album Somber Eyes to the Sky, through Bachand's recording label, Lifeless Records.
Of One Blood (1998–2000)
Shadows Fall performing live at Turock Open Air in Essen, Germany, 2014
In 1998, Labonte was asked to leave the band due to personal and artistic differences. He had ideas for a side project while a member of the band, and went on to form All That Remains. The band looked for a replacement vocalist and eventually recruited Milford, MA native Brian Fair of the pioneering metalcore band Overcast. The band had been friends with Fair for years. After a US Summer tour with Shai Hulud, Overcast disbanded and the band asked Fair if he would like to join Shadows Fall. While on tour Shadows Fall was signed to Century Media Records. The band recorded its second studio album Of One Blood with Fair on vocals in 2000, and the release included re-recorded songs from Somber Eyes to the Sky. In 2001, David Germain decided to leave the band due to alcoholism, and was replaced by former Stigmata and Burning Human drummer Jason Bittner.
The Art of Balance (2001–2003)
Due to repeated comparisons with Gothenburg melodic death metal bands, Shadows Fall decided to change its style to find its own sound. Inspired by more thrash, hard rock and power ballad influences, the band recorded its third studio album, titled The Art of Balance. Released on September 17, 2002, the album peaked at number 15 on the Billboard Top Independent albums chart. Shadows Fall released three music videos to promote the album; "Thoughts Without Words", "Destroyer of Senses", and "The Idiot Box". The Art of Balance featured a cover of the Pink Floyd song "Welcome to the Machine." Andy Hinds of Allmusic stated the album is "a modern heavy metal album that is both brutal and highly musical, traditional yet forward-thinking", but criticized the placement of "Welcome to the Machine", stating the song "is stylishly well-executed, but seems a tad out of place nonetheless." Shadows Fall supported The Art of Balance by touring on Ozzfest in 2003.
The War Within (2004–2006)
Shadows Fall released its fourth studio album The War Within on September 21, 2004. It was the first release to enter the Billboard 200 for the band at number 20, and peaked at number one on the Top Independent albums chart. In promotion for the album, Shadows Fall released four music videos over the course of one year; "The Power of I and I", "What Drives the Weak", "Inspiration on Demand", and "Enlightened By the Cold". The song "What Drives the Weak" received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Metal Performance in 2006, however the award went to Slipknot for the song "Before I Forget". "The Light That Blinds" was featured in the video game Guitar Hero II. Wade Kergan of Allmusic praised the album stating the band has "grown beyond the confines of the metal-loving hardcore crowd anyway, with more in common now with the classic thrash of Metallica than the metal-tinged hardcore of Coalesce". In support of the album the band once again performed on Ozzfest, but this time as a mainstage act. As of 2008, the album has sold almost 400,000 copies in the United States.
Shadows Fall released its first DVD The Art of Touring in November 2005. The DVD included a live concert, backstage footage, and six music videos. The band released its final CD on Century Media Records, titled Fallout from the War on June 13, 2006. Released as a compilation album, it debuted at number 83 on the Billboard 200. Fallout from the War included tracks recorded for The War Within that did not make it on to the album, b-sides, re-recordings, and cover songs. David Jeffries of Allmusic claimed the album is "a great informal introduction to the ferocious and melodic witches' brew Shadows Fall always seems to nail."
Threads of Life (2007–2008)
Shadows Fall signed a deal with Atlantic Records to distribute the band's albums in the United States, and a deal with Roadrunner Records for international distribution. The band released its fifth studio album Threads of Life on April 3, 2007. "Redemption", the first single from the CD was released on February 20, 2007 through iTunes with an accompanying music video. "Redemption" received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Metal performance; the award ceremony as held on February 10, 2008, but Slayer's "Final Six" won the award. Thom Jurek of Allmusic stated Shadows Fall has "lost none of the fire, attack or attitude" on Threads of Life. Jurek also said the album featured "killer guitar breaks, big fat chugging riffs, power-slam skin work, cattle prod bass, and cool little hooks and melodic touches on top of those bludgeoning riffs make Threads of Life a major label debut of merit, and a metal record worthy of celebrating." Keith Bergman of Blabbermouth.net stated "Threads of Life is slick as hell."
Shadows Fall toured in support of Threads of Life, including making appearances at the Jägermeister tour with Stone Sour and Lacuna Coil, the Operation Annihilation tour with Static-X, 3 Inches of Blood, and Divine Heresy, and the Black Crusade tour with Trivium, Machine Head, Dragonforce, and Arch Enemy. The band was a part of the Soundwave tour in Australia and in Asia in February 2008, along with Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying, and Bleeding Through.
Shadows Fall released their sixth album, Retribution, on September 15, 2009, through the band's own label, Everblack Industries, which was created in conjunction with Warner Music Group's ILG, Ferret Music and ChannelZERO Entertainment. It is being released in the UK via Spinefarm Records. The album was produced by Chris "Zeuss" Harris. Drummer Jason Bittner recently stated about the band's new material, "The songs are a little more on the darker, angry side... lots of heaviness, lots of crazy guitar, and LOTS of room for me to have some fun. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be the best performance of my career, so far, and I owe that to my guys for bringing me incredible riffs to write killer drum parts to." As of the fall of 2009 the band was appearing on the 'Shock & Raw' tour of North America with 2Cents, Otep & Five Finger Death Punch. After a South American tour, Shadows Fall will be playing on the Jägermeister Stage in the 2010 Rockstar Mayhem Festival in July and August 2010. The band is also scheduled to support Lamb of God on their Australian tour in December 2009 Shadows Fall is pleased to announce their first and only New York City performance this year, taking place at Santos Party House on December 18, 2010 with direct support from Thy Will Be Done.
Shadows Fall released a live CD/DVD, Madness in Manila: Shadows Fall Live in The Philippines 2009, on October 26.
Fire From the Sky and final tours (2012–present)
In late 2011, Shadows Fall entered the studio to begin recording their seventh studio album. While in the studio, they held live video streams to discuss the progress of the album and answer questions from fans. This album is the first to be produced by Adam Dutkiewicz since the band's original studio release, Somber Eyes to the Sky. Fire From the Sky was released on May 15, 2012 through Razor & Tie.
On January 11, 2013, it was announced that guitarist Johnathan Donais would be joining Anthrax on their upcoming Metal Alliance Tour and on August 13, 2013 Donais was confirmed as a full Anthrax member.
On June 28, 2014, Shadows Fall performed with the bands Black Fast, Dead by Wednesday, Hallow Point, and Gray's Divide in St. Louis, Missouri.
On August 25, 2014, the band announced several final tours to take place in Europe and North America so the band could take a hiatus from future extensive touring.
In December 2014, it was announced drummer Jason Bittner would join Arizona thrash metal band Flotsam and Jetsam, and guitarist Matt Bachand would join Act of Defiance, along with the former members of Megadeth.
In August 2015, the band took part in a few reunion shows along the US East Coast, while all of its members were able to do so, before heading out with their respective other bands for late 2015/2016 touring.