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Threads of Life is a very confused album. Shadows Fall was going in the right direction with their previous album, The War Within but with the release of Threads of Life it seems as if Shadows Fall have added a little more than what the listener bargained for and it leaves both the listener and the album feeling a little confused.
Shadows Fall had been heading towards a thrash/metalcore combination with some of their last few releases and I was finally getting excited. This release was supposed to be the climax of the “thrashcore” sound. What I actually got was a combination of thrash, metalcore, and some classic metal. Some of you are saying “classic metal?” Allow me to explain myself. The music presented has many different influences.
The guitar work is where most of the influences lie. The album is full of thrash riffs, particularly in the first half of the album. “Failure of the Devout” has a killer thrash riff in the song. There are some awesome fast and dirty riffs presented and the dueling guitars work off of one another quite well. The solos in most of the first half of the album are really well thought out and emotional in their presentation. Shadows Fall has always had top notch guitar players and they are flaunting their talents.
The guitars also show quite a bit of melody on the album too. A ballad (Another Hero Lost) and an acoustic interlude (The Great Collapse) are two major melodic parts of the album but even in the middle of some songs the guitars bust out into a melodic section. Unfortunately, the songs also move into the cliché metalcore breakdown almost every song. This really breaks up the “melodic thrash” rhythm Shadows Fall gets going as the music breaks down (specifically in the latter half of the album) back into that metalcore sound that has become relatively hard to stomach.
The bass and drum work structure most of the songs nicely. Shadows Fall has always had a great drummer and there are times on Threads of Life where he even throws some good thrash drumming down. He varies away from the mediocre metalcore drumming and really lets his skins light up.
The bass work is well written and there are even a few moments where the bass takes the limelight and gets to shine as the music breaks. The bass has a progressive feeling at times when it breaks away from being strictly a structuring element and gets to play itself out like a guitar. Not the best bass work I’ve heard but it’s getting better.
By far the part of Shadows Fall that I hate the most is the vocals. Brian Fair has some of the strangest sounding vocals I’ve heard. His barking is literally…barking. His softer singing is a lot better than the gruff sound (he even tries some harsh sounding vocals – tries is the key word) but his voice just gets on my nerves. The more frequent use of Bachand (guitars) as a back up vocalist has become almost a gimmick. His higher pitch singing does compliment Fair’s vocals. In fact, I secretly hope that Fair gets benched and Bachand takes lead.
I think that the combination of different metal influences (metalcore, thrash, and classic) has opened a lot of doors for Shadows Fall. Unfortunately, they either need to shit or get off the pot. Right now it seems as if the band is just confused on what kind of metal they want to play. This in turn confuses me – and makes me feel as though the band needs to focus more. Shadows Fall is a work in progress once again.
Songs to check out: Burning the Lives, Failure of the Devout, Another Hero Lost.