Review Summary: Nonpoint have, once again, lost their edge.
In the eleven years since the release of their crowning achievement, 2005's To the Pain
, Nonpoint has struggled to release an album that both captures their live intensity and proves an enjoyable individual listening experience. The one glimpse of hope came in the form of their self-titled release (out on Razor & Tie in 2012) - an album with legitimate catalog standouts and live mainstays. 2014's The Return
, a blase' effort for yet another new label, featured the excellent track "Misery", the decent "Pins and Needles", and a slew of forgettable, mid-paced headbangers. The band is back with their ninth major label release, an album that continues to satisfy in the live setting yet ultimately proves disappointing to fans fondly remembering their early work.
The first thing to note about The Poison Red
is that the production is quite lacking, especially in comparison to their self-titled effort, and specifically in regards to the guitars. The lack of clarity and overbearing distortion is ever present through the album, resulting in an artificial, plastic fuzz at odds with frontman Elias Soriano's naturally gruff voice. Heavy moments fall flat and delicate passages feel lifeless, ending up in a battle with Miracle
as the worst-produced album in their discography. Unfortunately, the quality of songs presented do not come close to making up for lackluster presentation.
Opener "Generation Idiot" was released as a single and video prior to the album to generally favorable fan reviews. A typical Nonpoint headbanger, the track is a standout for Elias who finds a nice balance between his classic rap metal approach to verses and the varied vocal delivery he's developed throughout his career. Seated in groove metal with a semi-interesting tapping lead swirling around the track, it turns out one of the high points for the album. The momentum is lost with the next track, "Foaming at the Mouth", which features a guitar riff reminiscent of the one we all wrote in our bedrooms when we were fourteen. The downward spiral continues in "Chasing White Rabbits" which would be moderately enjoyable were it not for a laughable bridge with cliche clean guitars and silly lyrics.
As the album progresses it becomes clear that The Poison Red
suffers from the same fate as prior works Vengeance
and The Return
- a simple lack of ideas. This is most apparent in "El Diablo", a song featuring a chorus sung in Spanish (One of Nonpoint's original standout attributes, as found in fan favorites "Orgullo", "Rabia" and "Buscandome"). The track is relatively successful, with catchy spanish-flavored riffs and a nice chorus. Unfortunately, said Spanish riffs don't fit at all in the flow of the record and ultimately feel forced. "Divided...Conquer Them" follows with the classic nu-metal trope of soft-verse / heavy-chorus (admittedly, a decent one) and even ends on a fade out of sorts. These two tracks, along with "Generation Idiot", end up worthy of a listen for Nonpoint fans. There just isn't much substance in the rest of the effort. Boring riffs, uninteresting lyrics and ho-hum choruses plague The Poison Red
from beginning to end, and an increased utilization of guitar solos tends to elicit a roll of the eyes rather than shreddy fingers.
The durability (and critical acknowledgement) of bands in the second wave of nu-metal acts was largely dependent on the little things - what set them apart from Staind, Linkin Park, POD etc. Nonpoint's major label debut Statement
garnered substantial attention and airplay on the strength of catchy singles like "What a Day" and "Endure", but the band survived the nu-metal purge with undeniable energy and speed compared to their peers. What made them so important to fans, though, was the ability to find beauty even in their most aggressive moments (see "Excessive Reactions"), never eschewing melody for cheap thrills. Elias' electric delivery was more powerful juxtaposed to surprisingly delicate clean passages, a la Lajon Witherspoon. Original guitarist Andrew Goldman's gliding approach to heaviness and riffs over founding member and drummer Robb Rivera's thrashy tendencies led to four albums of powerful, top-of-the-genre hard rock.
It may pay dividends to search for that spastic devastation they achieved in "Mindtrip", or earworm riffs like those in "Alive and Kicking". Save for brief signs of life on their Self-titled effort the band has largely reverted to a focus on crafting songs that will go over well live. While never really innovative, Nonpoint used to thrive on execution and enjoyed a better-than-expected amount of success in a rapidly changing landscape for heavy music. Had Statement
been released a year or two earlier they may well have ended up enjoying success on the level of Disturbed, but seem destined now to follow the path of bands like Sevendust. Unlike Sevendust, however, they've proven anything but consistent over the last decade, and The Poison Red
does not change things in the slightest, and is in serious contention with Miracle
for their worst effort yet.
Nonpoint has, once again, lost their edge. Here's hoping they find it for the inevitable 2018 release.