Review Summary: Shadows Fall melt into the generic American metalcore scene.
The first thing one notices upon picking up Shadows Fall's latest release, Threads of Life, is the unspeakably horrible artwork on the front. The cover art depicts a rather ugly creature that is apparently sewn together and entirely eye-less. In short, the cover art appears to be done by a rather talentless local artist with a penchant for clashing colors horribly (check the purpleish pink on green, yo). It does, however, clearly convey a feeling of rawness and obscurity. Is this perhaps Shadows Fall expressing their desire to return to their thrash/Gothenburg roots?
Apparently not. Threads of Life finds Shadows Fall treading water. The War Within was very definitely a metalcore album, but it still managed to maintain the vibrant Shadows Fall sound. Threads Of Life, with a few exceptions, seems to be entirely devoid of the aspects that made Shadows Fall so listenable and enjoyable in the first place. The grooving, low end thrash riffs and deep throaty vocals have all but vanished. Brian Fair is irredeemably poor on this album; his clean vocals are entirely unremarkable, and his harsh vocals are very weak. Because of this, he often resorts to the loatheworthy tactic of gang vocal shouting. Fair used to be a good vocalist, but has been steadily worsening since the band's magnum opus, The Art Of Balance. Also, the lyrics are the same faux-spiritual nonsense that we've been fed on previous albums. That's not anything new, but it's definitely still a negative. The riffs themselves also seem to be steadily worsening; it seems like Shadows Fall are simply running out of ideas. There are still some good ones, such as the triumphant riffage in Redemption, but there are many more bland and faceless ones. There is also a distinct lack of the ferocious groove thrash guitar lines that were so present on The Art Of Balance; the low end is less noticeable. Perhaps that is due to the more expensive production. If that's the case, then I prefer the underproduced version.
The songs themselves are nothing spectacular either. The finest tracks bookend the album; Redemption, Burning The Lives, Just Another Nightmare, and Forevermore are all fine Shadows Fall tracks. However, the middle of the album is notably weak. Another Hero Lost is the first attempt at a solely emotional ballad by Shadows Fall, and it fails miserably. Brian Fair attempts to carry the song with his weak voice, but his shallow lyrics and the insipid guitar melody manage to ruin his attempt. The semi-thrash nonsense at the end sounds forced as well. Dread Uprising is a fierce, hardcore inspired track that is almost entirely lead free, much in the same vein as The Power Of I And I. The solo is incredible, but the riffing is stagnant to say the least. Venomous sounds like it was ripped straight off of a latter era Metallica album, and fails to make any mark at all. Shadows Fall attempt to infuse some of their old ferocity into Failure Of The Devout, and it almost works. The riffs are breakneck and at least slightly technical, but the song itself is stretched too long and not very enjoyable. The dissonant melody in the beginning (think Stillness) is also quite ear grating. Last Call is simply too long without being inherently epic; it's just long for the sake of being long. Needless to say, it's quite tedious.
That's pretty much the story of Threads of Life. There are some decent, even good tracks, but there is a notable lack of sonic development and at least half of the tracks are tedious. This makes me especially sad, because I have long considered Shadows Fall to be one of my favorite bands. I would recommend picking up their entire catalogue before you pick up this disappointment.