It was bound to happen… Sooner or later this band was going to run out of steam. Ever since they released the critically acclaimed “The Art Of Balance” in 2002 these guys have been on an upward surge, with both that album and the follow-up, “The War Within”, being hailed as modern Metal masterpieces. I also personally loved those two albums but when last year’s “Fallout From The War” hit I noticed a distinct lack of purpose in their sound. Granted, it was largely a rarities collection but the 6 new songs featured on “Fallout” mostly plodded along aimlessly. This new album continues that trend, at least for the most part…
What you will find in “Threads Of Life” is the band’s trademark melodic Thrash/Hardcore mix, but with a production job as smooth as a baby’s bottom and a lot more emphasis on clean vocals (especially during the choruses), this album is nowhere near as gripping as their previous works. It all sounds too emasculated and at the end of the day the songwriting really does nothing to silence criticism that this album shows a band on autopilot. Of all the songs here only two really grabbed me – one being the opener (“Redemption”) with its haunting bayou-esque clean vocal lines and powerful opening riffing; the other being the closer (“Forevermore”) a speedy Thrash track where the riffs, solos and vocals combine really impressively to create a powerful and insistent track that’s sure to become a new SHADOWS FALL classic. The surprisingly well done ballad “Another Hero Lost” is another highlight that showcases a different side to Fair’s singing. “Burning The Lives” is a very energetic riffy track that’s not too bad, while the tender instrumental could easily have stood on “The Art Of Balance”. But that’s where the positives end – the rest of the album ranges from the merely decent (“Storm Winds”, “Just Another Nightmare”) to just plain poor (“Final Call”, ”Dread Uprising”).
One could easily call this album a weaker version of “The War Within”, as there is really no discernible difference between the two, with the exception of the increased use of clean vocals. During some tracks they really rock out and overall the lead work is sublime, but for the most part they just sound like they’re going through the motions. I’d still rate them as one of the better bands in the current crop of metal acts but I feel that they really should have pushed their sound with this album instead of just cruising along.
Final verdict: solid but underwhelming.
(Online July 22, 2007)