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Shadows Fall - "Threads of Life" (CD)

Shadows Fall - "Threads of Life" CD cover image

"Threads of Life" track listing:

1. Redemption
2. Burning The Lives
3. Storm Winds
4. Failure Of The Devout
5. Venomous
6. Another Hero Lost
7. Final Call
8. Dread Uprising
9. The Great Collapse
10. Just Another Nightmare
11. Forevermore

Reviewed by on April 12, 2007

"Threads of Life is a sturdy album for Shadows Fall but predictability looms large."

Being signed to Atlantic records surely affords Shadows Fall some creature comforts but it also places them under swift and harsh judgement. Major label deals are a rare event with the music industry publicly cannibalizing itself, scarcer still for metal acts of any stripe. Whether fans and critics embrace this milestone hinges upon the band's ability to grow - without turning their backs on their signature sound. As with their peers in Lamb of God and Mastodon (also signed to the plumpest of major labels), many have been anxiously awaiting Shadows Falls' latest: Threads of Life.

The Massachusetts five piece have been steering a linear course since 2002's The Art of Balance. Having juggled aggression, technical dexterity and melody; Shadows Fall's stock soared in the popular underground. The War Within and Fallout From the War brought more concise songs with grander choruses. Threads of Life follows this pattern, among others. It seems the choruses are now on growth hormones. Vocal and instrumental aggression remains abundant but notably altered, at times even staggered. Though changes are evident, concerns about Shadows Fall becoming a post black album Metallica or worse - a thrash leaning Godsmack, are utterly unfounded.

"Redemption" erupts like a long stewing volcano. Dense, avalanching rhythms rush the listener to a spacious clearing where vocalist Brian Fair delivers the band's cleanest and most resonant chorus to date. "Burning the Lives" attempts to nurture the established momentum but is less energetic and more sing-songy. Abusive rhythms flit to and fro, leaving whisps of clean vocals behind every corner. Predictably, squaking leads open and close the door on a screeching Jonathan Donais guitar solo. Dialing the intensity down further, the mid tempo march along of "Stormwinds" is glaringly forgettable. Per usual, Fair finds himself at odds with his unseen demons in a personal man versus self struggle. It's old news, but it's all told in a more articulate manner than Hatebreed has ever managed. As Fair finds absolution, yet another guitar solo is telegraphed to the song's hindquarters. Limping drums and downtrodden guitars open "Failure of the Devout". Gradually building into a certifiable monster, "Devout" is a welcome dose of violence and variety. Functioning as a buffer, "The Great Collapse" is a vulnerable, shimmering instrumental that recalls "Casting Shade" and "Lead Me Home". Leaving little to the imagination, "Another Hero Lost" laments the passing of a soldier "in the sand." Heartfelt and genuine, it's disarming to hear Shadows Fall be this open. Rather than hide behind obsessively vengeful screams and maelstrom instrumentation, "Hero" invites the listener to share in the pain, rather than combat it. "Dread Uprising" begins with the same bounding kick drums that greeted fans on The Art of Balance opener "Idle Hands." Tottering thrash riffs cut a familiar path amid furious drumming and Fair's call to arms bark. It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, but it's totally unremarkable.

Threads of Life is a sturdy album for Shadows Fall but predictability looms large. Every song sounds at peace with it's neighbor but few demand a place in the listener's memory. The band utilize such a narrow template for their compositions that verses and choruses stand together like shotgun houses. Vocalist Brian Fair demonstrates greater range than ever before but he is virtually inescapable - the rest of the band are rarely heard outside of his commanding presence. Guitar solos act as epilogues for virtually every song on the album. There are no sprawling epics or flickering hardcore tantrums, the average song runs at four minutes. Fans accustomed to maneuverable rhythms, and atonal rage will get those facets in bursts rather than lengthy durations. Each band member's signature sound remains in evidence, a glimmer of hope for those worried about a Bob Rock-ing Shadows Fall. None can fault the band's technique or spirit, Shadows Fall play with a tenacity unmatched by their peers. It's not a lack of growth or skill stunting Threads of Life, it's a disregard for creative diversity.

Highs: “Redemption”, “Failure of the Devout”, “Dread Uprising” and “Final Call” will appeal to fans who enjoyed The War Within. The crisp production quality enriches every performance.

Lows: The band adheres to their song structure blueprint so tightly it almost becomes comical. The succinct and plentiful mid paced tracks may scare off those who thrive on the band’s controlled chaos.

Bottom line: Fans get variety in tempo but not in form. Some may find Threads of Life sluggish or repetitive. Others could argue that it is a bold continuation of the bands growth. This one is truly in the ears of the beholder.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 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)