Review Summary: Struggle is raw, uncouth, and sees Nonpoint in its development stage, but is nonetheless a decent nu metal album.
Nonpoint was on Struggle
Elias Soriano -vocals
Andrew Goldman -guitar
Kenneth "KB" Charman -bass
Robb Rivera -drums
Many people know Nonpoint by their "Recoil" and "To The Pain" albums, which were great nu metal records. Not many have heard (of) Nonpoint's first major label release (I use the term major label here, because Nonpoint actually issued Struggle two years prior to its 1999 release, in 1997, independently and under the name Separate Yourself), though, which is titled "Struggle" and has gone kind of missing in the nu metal history. Struggle works as a great comparison point to Nonpoint's later efforts because of how different it is in feel and sound, and exhibits the progression that Nonpoint have done during the years. Still, that doesn't make Struggle a bad album by default.
Struggle, as opposed to Nonpoint's other releases, is unexpectedly bass-driven. At one point it is calm, funky and kind of flows through the song but at the other it blasts into a mighty section of aggressive downtuned riffing. The best examples of flowing are the tracks "Double Stacked" and "Gimmick" and the best examples of aggressive riffing are the tracks "Victim", "Struggle" and the end of "No Say". And the best example of those two together is the song "Hive", where in the chorus the bass is ferociously exploding in a sequence of downtuned angry riffs but at the end of the track it just silently and peacefully drifts along. In "Hive" the bass is very nicely supported by the drums which adapt to the different parts of the song and give a good background. The electric guitar isn`t heard so well in it though. Overally the bass creates the whole mood and atmosphere for the entire album and really leads the songs well. The sound that the bass and the guitar create on some of the songs, somewhat remind me of Sepultura`s "Roots" album. This kind of downtuned, aggressive, low and deep sound. Only, in my opinion, they have more variety in their riffs than Sepultura did. Because of those deep, downtuned riffs Nonpoint is sometimes even thought to be Groove metal (their earlier work: Struggle and Statement).
But what about the other instruments. Andrew Goldman also plays some good and funky riffs on his guitar. It`s just that they don`t stick out so much as the bass riffs. He has some good riffs on "No Say", "Senses", "Years" and "Two Tone", and has solid riffs everywhere else. He does a good contribution to the overall sound though. None of the songs wouldn`t be the same without him. He greatly aids the bass generally. You can really call Andrew a great team player.
The drumming is solid but nothing mindblowing. It suits the overall sound but doesn`t stand out much. And that is actually the problem with Robb Riviera. He is a good drummer, he really is, but he just doesn`t seem to have any remarkable reference points. The best examples of drumming are probably the tracks "Hive" and "Victim", and also the end of "No Say". I`m still hoping though that at least on one of Nonpoint`s future albums he will shine behind the drum kit.
There are also some good alternative items being used on Struggle. Like the good use of percussion items, such as tambourines, and occasionaly the good use of acoustic guitar. They bring this kind of little Latin spirit into some of their songs. By the way this is the only Nonpoint album where they create this Latin mood. They will drop it shortly after Struggle, and on Statement (Nonpoints second album) there is no actual trace of Latin influence. Only the little accent the vocalist has.
The vocals on this album are also good, but nothing special. Eliases screaming and singing at that time wasn´t at the level it is today but it did the job on Struggle nonetheless. Actually his singing was already pretty ok. It was just his screaming that needed to improve. The screams were quite strong but they lacked personality and therefore left quite a monotonous feel at some moments. But overally his vocals suite the album well. There are also some good backing vocals by Goldman from time to time. The best vocal performances are probably "Victim", "Struggle" and "No Say".
A lot of the songs featured on Struggle were redone on Statement. The songs were given a better and more mature sound, some of them were cut shorter, some had little lyric changes and the production quality was greatly raised. But the original versions of the tracks are interesting as hell. When compared to the remakes, some of the songs sound so different from eachother that sometimes you couldn`t even recognize them unless you would know that they are actually the same songs, just the original versions. The songs that were redone on Statement are: "Mindtrip", "Victim", "Hive", Years"and "Double Stacked". The original versions and the remakes are very fun to compare and see what kind of evolution Nonpoint has done. Especially as musicians.
Overally this is a very interesting Alternative metal album with great basswork, good riffs, solid vocals/drumming and a good overall sound, that reminds a little bit of Sepultura and early P.O.D., and stands out in the Nu/Alternative metal scene. It may not be particularly complex, neither it hasn`t the best sound quality but is still very cool and attractive.
Victim (original version)
Hive (original version)