Threads of Life Label: Atlantic / WEA Records
No words strike greater fear into the hearts of underground metal fans everywhere than “major label debut.” Shadows Fall have been a staple of the underground for years with their thrash metal heroics, monstrous vocals, and I-don’t-give-a-shit-just-give-me-another-beer attitude. Their previous release, 2004’s The War Within (followed up by a collection of B-sides, 2006’s Fallout from the War), won them critical acclaim across the board and set the stage for a, uh, major label debut.
It comes in the form a Threads of Life, and the band sounds terrific. They have done what so many others have failed to do in such a situation: not only maintain their sound, but expound upon it – without selling out. That’s not to say that Threads of Life doesn’t have the glossy sheen that the uppity-up suits demand, but Shadows Fall still plays circles around much of the competition.
The single, “Redemption,” kicks off the album and gives the listener a pretty good idea of what they’re in for. The tune has an unmistakable resemblance to “What Drives the Weak” off The War Within, but it nevertheless introduces a more melodic element to Shadows Fall’s music. Vocalist Brian Fair, who has traditionally stuck with more traditional metal growls, lets loose his real singing voice. Opinions will obviously differ, but I think he pulls it off magnificently. This is most apparent on the band’s first-ever ballad, “Another Hero Lost,” which is tribute to Fair’s fallen cousin, who was stationed in Iraq.
Shadows Fall has always been a guitar-driven band, and Jon Donais and Matt Bachand continue to be one of the most accomplished duos in the genre. They take turns detonating explosive solos on songs such as “Burning the Live, “Venomous” and “Final Call.” That they were given this kind of freedom by the label should be encouraging to those who feared the worst. A beautiful acoustic interlude (“The Great Collapse) à la “Casting Shade” and “Prelude to Disaster” of The Art of Balance also makes its triumphant return on Threads of Life.
The only gripes that arise are that some of the songs do blend together and the sound may be a little too “finished” for the long timers. For the rest of us, Shadows Fall has continued to progress their sound and remain one of the premier acts around. They’ll likely find a larger audience with their sound here, but as someone who digs all of their old stuff, Threads of Life plays just fine.