One could compare Shadows Fall's Threads of Life to many records. The most important parallels, though, point to Korn's Take a Look in the Mirror and Poison's Flesh and Blood. None of the three releases sounds remotely like another.
The common thread: As nu- and hair-metal wore out their welcomes, those genre's leading acts released final statements of artistic conviction – then moved on. That's what Threads of Life does for metalcore, a brilliant movement finally gone stale.
Put simply, Threads of Life is the record Shadows Fall was made to make. The 11 tracks boast boatloads of catchy melodies, demanding musicianship and amazing songcraft.
For example, the intricate guitar riffs in "Redemption" and "Stormwinds" wow while serving the songs. The acoustic instrumental "The Great Collapse" shows off the band's classical sensibilities. The chorus to "Burning the Live" creates a fist-pumping intensity. Virtually every other track masterfully blends metal riffing with hardcore energy and melody.
The mid-tempo "Final Call," however, takes the cake with its absurdly infectious vocals and muscular guitars. Listeners sing and then scream along through the angry verse, take a breath during the pre-chorus and break out the air guitars for the free-riding chorus. It's a must-have for any metal fan.
Perhaps the only letdown is "Another Hero Lost," a power ballad right down to its echo-y snare drum. It would sound fine by itself – in fact, it's quite emotional in a cheesy-guilty-pleasure kind of way – but it's downright silly in light of the band's promise not to sell out.
This marks their major-label debut as they move from Century Media to Atlantic, and singer Brian Fair promised Decibel magazine "[t]his isn't gonna be some candy-pop bubblegum s--t. It's pretty nasty." "Another Hero Lost" might do for Shadows Fall what "Through Glass" did for Stone Sour, but it doesn't lend the new record any credibility.
One upside Atlantic possibly provided, however, is that Shadows Fall ditched longtime producer Zuess (who certainly did a fine job and stayed on to mix 'Threads') in favor of Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Rush). It's the best-sounding metal record in recent memory, with loud, crunchy guitars that sit nicely between the vocals and drums. One could listen to Threads of Life for days.
Billboard recently announced the odd finding that major labels don't seem to increase sales for extreme metal acts. Major label debuts for Mastodon and Lamb of God fell behind previous records on indie labels. With accessible songs and just a little selling out, though, Threads of Life could prove the exception.
Shadows Fall deserves it, after pioneering a genre of music and influencing countless modern acts. It's hardly their fault those acts failed to come up with fresh and exciting ways to play metalcore.
Robert VerBruggen (http://www.therationale.com) is Assistant Book Editor at The Washington Times.
[ed note: Robert wanted to give this CD a 4.75 rating, however because we were not set up to do that, it was rounded up to 5 stars – check back later in the week for another take on this CD from Mark over at Thrashpit.]