Shadows Fall – Threads Of Life
Release Date: April 3rd 2007
Record Label: Atlantic Records
Shadows Fall has always walked the line between many different scenes when it comes to their fan base. Pleasing the metal crowd with a spot on Ozzfest while touring with acts like Glassjaw, the Massachusetts natives have never been keen on the idea of classification. They have carved a nice niche for themselves amongst both groups, but despite this wide fan base, Shadows Fall are undeniably a metal band at heart. With their newest foray into thrash metal, the band hopes to expand upon the directional change of their last full length, the wildly successful The War Within. The outcome is a mixed bag of metal stereotypes and recycled riffs that, despite some true gems, is better in theory than execution.
Before anything else, something has to be said right out of the gates; these guys can play their instruments. Guitarists John Donais and Matt Bachand and drummer Jason Bittner regularly grace the covers of guitar and drum magazines respectively, and they deserve every bit of recognition for their technical proficiency. However, this talent does not always translate to songs that are anything more than impressive displays of instrumental ability. Donais’ shredding skills mixed with the solid chugging patterns of Bachand make for some truly interesting instrumental moments that have only gotten better with each successive release. The pinch harmonic laden “Burning The Lives” is an example of excellent metal guitar playing. With its crunchy rhythms and blisteringly fast solo, the song stands out amongst the rest of the tracks and clearly displays the band’s not so subtle thrash metal influences. “Failure Of The Devout” starts out with a slow, chorus drenched intro before changing course diving headfirst into a fury of double kick drum lines and tremolo picked guitar riffs that climax with a very Pantera-like bridge section. Vocalist Brian Fair shows a little bit of versatility with a surprisingly soft delivery on “Another Hero Lost”, a heartbreaking ballad inspired by the death of Fair’s cousin who died while stationed in Iraq. For an album packed with such high velocity songs, the track is a nice change of pace and fits perfectly as a break from the intensity at the midpoint of the cd. If you are a sucker for the soft stuff, you will find some pleasure in the acoustic instrumental “The Great Collapse” which, although short, is a surprisingly complete little departure.
With such strong instrumental ability, where does the album go wrong? The answer lies in the lack of variation in song structure and Fair’s vocals. Pretty much every song (with an exception here and there) follows the same structure, which although is decent, can make the songs blend together. This coupled with some rehashed vocals can really wear on the listener after 49 minutes. Fair’s intentions are there, but often his screaming can sound generic with little alteration in delivery or rhythm. Lyrically, the album doesn’t fare much better (no pun intended) due to the mediocre topics that emanate little emotion or passion (save for “Another Hero Lost”), and just seem to have been done before. In fact, many of the guitar lines, although great, still sound eerily similar to some on their previous albums. “Redemption”, the first single off Threads Of Life, is a disappointing track that seems like they ripped off a successful riff from their last album and recycled it with a slightly different coat of paint.
With The War Within, it seemed as if Shadows Fall blew all of their quality songwriting on the beginning of the album before losing a severe amount of steam towards the end. Threads Of Life improves upon that by keeping the quality of songs up and creating a much more cohesive sounding album. Although it lacks the intensity of the early tracks on The War Within, it manages to keep up its steady pace through the course of the entire album and shows improvement from the long standing Shadows Fall. If you take pleasure in guitar wankery and technical ability or are a longtime Shadows Fall fan, then Threads of Life may be a great addition to your collection. If, however, you demand a little more substance and variety in your metal, then perhaps the predictability can be all too familiar to keep your attention.