Of all the albums to come out in 2012, few had as many questions surrounding them as the latest from Nonpoint. The previous year brought significant lineup changes, a label change and founding members, Elias Soriano and Robb Rivera also both became fathers. At both the professional and personal level, it was clear that we could expect something different from Nonpoint. I’m not sure anybody fully expected just exactly what Nonpoint was ready to unleash on the world.
The previous two Nonpoint albums—Vengeance and Miracle, respectively—by the band’s own admission, didn’t quite go in the direction they were completely pleased with, though those still contain songs that are major crowd pleasers. Still, many fan forums noted a preference for the band’s first four releases. As the writing and recording process progressed for Nonpoint, Rivera often mentioned that the new material brought together many of the best elements of those first four records. Just one listen and you’ll hear just how accurate of a statement that was.
Let’s be very clear and upfront about this: Nonpoint is the best album of Nonpoint’s career to date. It brings together the rawness of Statement, the melodicism of Development, the aggression of Recoil and the maturity of To The Pain.
To break down the elements that make this album so great, a few things stand out, namely: Elias’s vocals; the two-guitar attack of Dave Lizzio and Rasheed Thomas; the lock step timing of bassist Adam Woloszyn and drummer Robb Rivera; and the mature use of dynamics to give each song the maximum punch.
From the start, Nonpoint’s Elias Soriano was initially pigeon-holed as a rapper and Nonpoint was often lumped into the rap-rock nu-metal genre. Album after album, however, Soriano has proven that rapping is just one element of his style. When he wants to, Soriano has not only solid rock voice, but the melodic sensibilities to get the most from his voice. What he brings to the table this time, however, is even more. It’s a passion that goes deeper than the mere anger or frustration that fuels so many hard rock records. It’s a soulful expression come to life with a razor-sharp delivery that doesn’t just convey an emotion, it cuts through everything else and touches the common soulfulness in listeners. The end result is connection that makes listeners feel like they are not just listening to a record, but actually sharing a bond that, at its core, touches on the very essence of what it means to be human… to be angry, to love, to regret and, yes, to put your head down and press forward.
When the band announced that, for the first time in its existence, it was becoming a two-guitar band, I have to tell you, I was intrigued by the sonic possibilities. Little did any of us expect that Nonpoint was getting ready to unleash metal’s newest two-headed guitar monster in the form of Dave Lizzio and Rasheed Thomas. On this album, they lay a real blueprint of the contemporary dual-guitar attack. Eschewing the Iron Maiden or Judas Priest approach of harmony leads, Lizzio and Thomas team up to take riffing to uncommon territory. Sometimes it’s a combination of dry signal and wah-drenched riffing. Sometimes it’s chords played in different positions for a wall of sound. Sometimes it’s single-note lines mimicking the main riffs. Sometimes it’s contrary harmonic lines. Sometimes it’s all of those things in the same song, such as is the case with “International Crisis”. The approach is not uncommon compared to a handful of post-hardcore bands, but Lizzio and Thomas execute with deadly precision and pinpoint timing. Of course, this is just the approach, which says nothing of the innovative riff writing that, quite simply, rocks. Slippery riffs weave through a multitude of notes before resolving into rhythmic grinding. The total effect is smart riffing that still knocks you on your ass. One can’t help but think, somewhere, Brother Dimebag is smiling.
The other new face in Nonpoint is bassist, Adam Woloszyn. To be honest, to think that this is the first time that he and Rivera have worked together is almost unbelievable. The lockstep timing they maintain functions more like one solid rhythm machine than two different instruments playing together. Throughout the album, whether riffs are ahead of the beat, on the beat, or behind the beat, it’s almost as if the same nervous system is driving both men. It’s impressive as hell. Rivera seems to feel that, too, as he hits the drums harder on this album than anything in the past. You listen to the drums on “I Said It,” “Go Time,” or “Temper” and you get that sense that he’s not hitting the drums as much as he is attacking them. He’s been one of the most solid drummers in metal over the last decade, but this time out, he really upped his game. At times, it’s like listening to Anthrax’s Charlie Benante or Sepultura’s Igor Cavalera.
This takes us to the final element that makes Nonpoint the band’s most complete album to date: dynamics. The arrangements and use of dynamics to achieve tension and push/pull is fantastic. This manifests in arrangements that feature straight-ahead drums under quick-moving riffs, or soft parts interspersed between heavier parts or busy riffs alternated with wide open chord progressions. Even the song order progresses in a natural ways with high-octane cuts like, “Lights, Camera, Action” and “Temper” alternating with mid-tempo stompers like “Go Time” and “Pandora’s Box”.
If you prefer your metal sans the cookie monster vocals and nonstop blastbeats, this is one of the year’s must have albums. From the Spanish-tinged soloing on the beginnining of “Ashes,” to the bare-knuckle, ass-kicking stomp of “Go Time,” to the pure vitriol of “I Said It,” Nonpoint hits it with a fire that simply incredible. If this is what “the new Nonpoint” sounds like, then sign me up for the next decade, because it’s hard to imagine how it could get much better. This is simply one of the best rock albums of 2012.