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Threatpoint - "Dead To Rise" (CD)

Threatpoint - "Dead To Rise" CD cover image

"Dead To Rise" track listing:

1. The Beast Within
2. Pave The Way
3. Another Black Day
4. Shades Of Hate
5. Dreams Of Death
6. Never Say Die
7. Dead Man Walking
8. Who Am I?
9. B.R.K.
10. Better Off
11. Calm Before The Storm

Reviewed by on April 3, 2014

"Draws without apology from the Pantera and Sepultura traditions... and echoes Testament and Grip Inc."

No matter the year, ten is the first magic number on our nostalgia charts. Tenth anniversary reissues, “Best Of The Past Decade” countdowns – we can’t help it; we’re decadrones. And so it is that, in 2014, I find myself reflecting on the New Wave of American Heavy Metal (or American New Wave for simplicity, since “NWOAHM” just screams “pompous ass”) that gained an explosive foothold just beyond the turn of the millennium.

Context is key here. The Fred Dursts of the world were beginning to creak, groan, and slip from their precarious perches, and burgeoning acts such as Lamb Of God, Shadows Fall, Chimaira, Killswitch Engage, Demon Hunter, and DevilDriver were all too happy to administer the whopping coup de grâce before erecting new pillars of modern metal glory. Labels like “groove metal” or “metalcore” either lay dormant or had yet to fully gel; this wave of bands simply represented a rediscovered dedication to heaviness, skill, and respect for the genre’s history. At its crest, the American New Wave was invigorating and genuine in its accessibility; maybe one DIDN’T have to dig miles underground anymore for some “real metal.”

Scranton, Pennsylvania’s Threatpoint captures the American New Wave spirit with a shivery, crudely exciting flourish of ease. Like the band’s predecessors, debut album “Dead To Rise” draws without apology from the Pantera and Sepultura traditions to form a bracing cocktail where elements of thrash, death, groove, and traditional metal collide and reinforce one another. Most importantly – and here’s where the line between the New Wave and the subsequent morass of subgenre complacency grows starker – Threatpoint writes songs. “Actual Songs,” in the clever words of Australian singer Giles Lavery (Dragonsclaw), as distinguished from a cookie-cutter “How To Be Metal” sonic blueprint.

“Dead To Rise” brims with such “Actual Songs.” Every track boasts a memorable chorus (“The Beast Within”), but it’s always earned through an equally impressive onslaught of hook-laced riffs (“Never Say Die”), headbanging rhythms (“Another Black Day”), and masterful dynamics of aggression and subtlety. Threatpoint knows more than one way to be heavy, and much credit goes to frontman Chris James’ hefty bellow. Throughout, James echoes Chuck Billy of Testament (most strikingly on thrashing live crusher “Pave The Way”) and the late Gus Chambers of Grip Inc. (the eerie tribal progressive groover “Dreams Of Death” is an especially fitting tribute), two vocalists built for pure power that mixes raspy melody and enunciated brutality into one gritty package. Even on “Who Am I?” and “Calm Before The Storm,” the closest Threatpoint ventures to balladry, that menacing voice keeps things riveting.

Admittedly, there exist a couple weak spots where the album’s winning formula stretches a bit thin. The chorus on “Dead Man Walking” comes off a tad repetitive and grating; it’s memorable, all right, and sticks in your head, but you just may wish it gone before too long. Likewise for “B.R.K.” and its leaden gang-chanted meathead refrain “Blood! Red! Knuckles! Till the day I fuckin’ die!” This somewhat lazy attempt at shoutalong bravado and hardcore camaraderie stalls the momentum a bit, and only the previously established songwriting capital powers the band through and back to full steam.

However, neither are necessarily bad songs, which only shows just how right Threatpoint gets things overall. “Dead To Rise” rediscovers that metallic sweet spot the early-millennial American New Wave represented; the marriage of old school and new, the coexistence of aggression and accessibility. If you’re sick of Five Finger Death Punch and seek modern metal that’s darker, more creative, and closer to the original mission, Threatpoint is your band.

Highs: "Pave The Way" and "Dreams Of Death"

Lows: "Dead Man Walking" and "B.R.K."

Bottom line: Riveting and memorable modern metal that honors genre veterans while embodying the seminal American New Wave of the early millennium.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)