The Canadian metal outfit Threat Signal are relative newcomers in the heavy metal scene, having released their debut album Under Reprisal a mere four years past. They released their sophomore effort in 2009, and true to the common two year cycle so popular with active bands these days, 2011 marks the coming of their self titled third release. Where the first two records consisted of solid, even impressive thrash tinged metalcore, this new collection of tunes shows a strong desire to not simply shake up, but totally overhaul this formula. The result is a stunning example of modern melodic death metal, and Threat Signal is their finest album to date.
The proceedings kick off with the highly technical “Uncensored,” and from the first chord to the last brutal shout, it is immediately apparent that fans of the band’s previous work are in for a very different experience. Gone are the semi-screamo shouting of the first two records, replaced very competently with a brutal, punishing growl reminiscent of early Soilwork and many of their Swedish counterparts. There are still the band’s usual Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) style clean choruses to remind you of their roots, but even here they seem to be more tastefully applied, even reserved in their execution, such as “Comatose,” and “Face the Day.” The trade offs are generally well done and the cleans never feel forced both physically and compositionally.
There has been a recent surge in band’s writing and recording music to draw attention to the ever-expanding awareness of secret organizations such as the NWO and other clandestine political/social groups. This theme is central to this release, and “New World Order”, is one of the most affecting and hard hitting songs of the bunch, riddled with gorgeous melodies, enthusiastic vocals, crushing riffage and a memorable guitar solo in conclusion. “Fallen Disciples” features a similarly dark feel, with an ominous introduction followed by an almost Darkane-esque thrash track. Very heavy, very potent. “Death Before Dishonor” begins with a soft guitar intro and segues immediately into a brooding shred fest, with a series of complex time changes over laid with equally technical lead guitar, with clear nods to recent Scar Symmetry material (which amusingly enough chose a similar lyrical theme for their newest album) without being a mere parody.
The ballsy closing track “Buried Alive” rounds out the album as a mind melting, tech-thrash song with a radio friendly chorus sporting a frequently used Kennedy sample citing the dangers of secrecy in an open society. The words “FIGHT BACK” are employed in a truly disturbing, effective manner, urging the listener to open their eyes to the comings and goings of a world that is becoming increasingly restrictive. The song ends with a harmonic lead riff that sifts into a slow, melancholic outro. Invariably one of the most impressive aspects of this record is the utterly relentless darkness that encompasses every song, a kind of aural assault that many bands attempt, but few succeed at while still remaining musical.
Production wise, this is a beast of an album. The entire affair sports a murderously heavy, percussive, frankly devastating sound, with particular emphasis on a tight balance between the led and rhythm guitar. The bass is lost a bit in the mix, but I never really found myself straining to hear it, as everything else is just so well done. The vocals in particular are exactly where they should be, in your face and relentless. The band took a huge risk and forsook the typically commercial route that would have been a natural evolution of their style and likely netted them more sales. They deserve major respect for this, as it resulted in their strongest release by far, and an all around fantastic piece of music.