Three years after their initial release, after being a true Internet success story, Threat Signal is back with a new album called Vigilance. I never got to review the first album, and I must admit that this style is a little bit too sugary sweet for my tastes, but I was pleasantly surprised with what I heard contained within the borders of Vigilance: a band comfortable in their own shell, producing music that skates the fine line between pop metal, metalcore and thrash. This record is sure to bring delight to those among us who aren’t fans of the more heavy hitting, brutal or technical things that are flooding the market these days.
I think it’s safe to say that Threat Signal is a metalcore band, in the sense that they are modern metal with a vocalist that borders on hardcore vocals, uses intense groove metal and sounds a bit too much like In Flames for their own good. However, what these guys have that a lot of metalcore bands lack is seriously good guitar players. Sure, Petrucci isn’t the lead player in this band, but Threat Signal has consistently excellent leads and harmonies that, even to the skeptical listener, play well. These melodic parts, combined with the tightness of the groove make Vigilance fun to listen to at first, but over time one picks up on the same kind of formula that is used by Killswitch Engage to build their songs. Semi-tech guitar playing in the vein of 90s Swedish melodic death metal, followed by slowed down clean vocal choruses that are specifically built to stick in the listener’s brain. All of this is smoothly pieced together into tight, fairly short songs and packcaged for the delight of kids with scene hair.
Of course, my biggest issue with this is that it’s too damn smooth and therefore over time the songs begin to blend together and lose form and originality. The band is surely talented, but the material is too smooth, too formulaic and frankly too near to screamo and emocore for me to be able to deal with. The clean vocals sound like they could’ve been on a Thrice or Coheed record and, while the screams are very good, they seem to take backseat to a lot of clean vocals.
There are some excellent moments contained within this CD, however. It’s not a total waste of time, but it lacks that bit of originality that could really push this band somewhere else from where they sit. In 2009 metalcore is old hat, no one is really picking this stuff up now that certain labels overloaded on it, and I suspect that it will have flagging sales as well. Bands like Threat Signal who are truly talented, should definitely be thinking about progression.
A final note: as if to prove my point about originality, the next band on my iTunes playlist was one track that I got from a Roadrunner promo from Trivium. The track sounds with clean vocals, and a riff that sounds just like Threat Signal. I thought “Wow, yeah, I’d forgotten about this part.. his vocals sound great!” So I went to check the name of the song, to find out that it was Trivium. The fact that I can’t even tell these two bands apart when they sit side-by-side in my promo playlist should illustrate my point. Vigilance is an excellent effort, no doubt about it, but it lacks that spark of originality and newness that is necessary to keep a band afloat.