It is hard to say that anything really surprised upon The Return, US metallers Nonpoint’s new album but it does come with a fresh aggression and intensity, as well as resourcefully crafted and presented songs, which will ensure their fans will devour it greedily. The album is prime Nonpoint, melodically flaming with the muscular energy and framing which has kept the band from being lost in the wealth of similarly toned bands these past seventeen years since forming. It does not leave ears awestruck or passions aflame but the album does provide a tasty slab of Nonpoint potency stoked with a strong contagious enterprise missing from many of their previous albums.
Backing up the success of their previous self-titled album of 2012, the Florida quintet spent most of last year touring in its support but swiftly set to writing its successor once they could relax. This past February Nonpoint hit the Groovemaster Studios with Grammy Award-nominated producer Johnny K [Disturbed, Staind, Megadeth] and engineer Daniel Salcidoto, subsequently giving birth to The Return.
It is a proposition which is definitely one of the band’s most consistently captivating encounters with each song an individual and gripping narrative in its own right, something their earlier full-lengths could not always achieve for us. The Return still maybe feeds expectations more than wrong-foots them across its total provocation, but with flavoursome sonic endeavour and melodic toxicity aligned to an at times new hostility to the sound, the album provides a constant intrigue and satisfaction which never diminishes.
Opener Pins and Needles gives a clear sign of intent from its first breath, thunderously thumping beats punctuating fiercely fiery riffs from the off before settling into a formidable canter ridden by the distinctive and potent tones of vocalist Elias Soriano. The guitars of Rasheed Thomas and B.C. Kochmit relentlessly spin a toxic web around ears and the song’s imposing spine sculpted by drummer Robb Rivera and the throaty weight of Adam Woloszyn’s bass for a riveting mix and design. It is an offering unleashing that new intensity to the band’s sound with relish whilst adding some sublime individual invention, especially in a gripping guitar solo.
It is not a devastating start to the album but definitely a rigorously anthemic one which is backed up by latest single Breaking Skin. The song is a sinew driven portrait of the familiar Nonpoint sound but with a volatile air to its energy and impassioned intent to its rich melodic hues. There is no denying the craft of the band members either, the track a blistering showcase of their individual qualities and skills as well as their musical brotherhood. The fact that the most striking aspect of the song is its brevity and enjoyable acute ending does tell of a missed opportunity though which in some ways sums up the album.
Bullet With A Name from Nonpoint’s 2005 album To The Pain is an all-time favourite track here and it is fair to say it is not matched by any song on The Return but the next up Razors is a near miss. It says anthem from first note to last, ruggedly winding grooves and riffs enslaving senses and appetite from the start before relaxing into a melodic embrace which comes alive through the exceptional vocal design carrying it. Soriano as expected croons with an inviting growl but it is the stretched almost warped harmonies accompanying him which help turn a great song into an album topper. There is also a muggy intensity and atmosphere to the track which tenaciously simmers and boils at certain points, again flicking a dramatic switch within the excellent encounter.
Both Misery and the album’s title track keep ears and enthusiasm for the album high and concentrated, though neither can quite match their predecessor. The first of the pair carries another imposing roar in sound and presence which again suggests that the band has chosen a direction in which they can really flourish ahead whilst its successor confronts and seduces the senses like a mix of Stone Sour and Poets of the Fall. The stalking beats of Rivera make a sizeable intimidation and lure around which the song brews a flaming bluster of sonic enterprise and temptation. It is a song where there is plenty going on, more than can be taken in through one listen which in itself is another new side which can be argued has been absent previously in their music, and gives another major highlight to the release.
It is hard not to get a soft spot for the inventive bass proposals of Woloszyn across The Return, his gripping lead into Take Apart This World a prime example where he triggers a lick of the lips for his baiting enterprise in the compelling track.
From this point though the album loses some of its grip on thoughts and passions even though tracks like Forcing Hands and Goodbye Letters are highly pleasing offerings. They slip into that expected and appreciated but unsurprising Nonpoint feel bred over so many potent years, and even though there are definitely enticing and exciting twists and moves within the, to be fair, enjoyable tracks they are unable to seize ears as tightly as the earlier songs on the release.
Never Ending Hole is another similarly missing a trick, especially as it shows like on most tracks, the band’s new adventurous and skilled appetite to suddenly switch and twist the direction and ideation of sounds and vocals. It is a fine and engrossing offering but ultimately hints more than it delivers in that experimentation and originality before making way for the emotive and melodically seducing power balladry of Widowmaker and the ferocious intensity and urgency of Never Cared Before. The second of the two roars and brawls with ears as it treats them to a virulent fury of riffs and rhythms spiced by sonic venom. It is another gripping assault which if anything is again not quite bold enough in its violent invention.
The album closes with firstly the anthemic animosity of F**K’D, a track which is an easy protagonist on ears and to engage with, though lyrically it seems to take the easy option and go straight for the primitive instincts of us all. It is still a rousing incitement which leaves the likeable if uninspiring Know Myself to bring the album to an end.
In some ways The Return is an album of two halves, the first a stirring and thrilling encounter which maybe does not quite go far enough in its new adventure and the second just what you would expect and admittedly want from Nonpoint, superbly crafted and structured sounds which bless ears but this time without setting them ablaze. To be truthful the more you listen to the album the more it impresses so it is hard to be too hard on it but the wish that it surprised with greater tenacity and simply threw some truly unexpected curveballs is never absent.
The Return is available now via Metal Blade Records @ http://nonpoint.merchnow.com/ and http://www.emp.de/nonpoint-the-return-cd/art_288636/
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