Sound — 7
Nu-metal is a style that has seen somewhat of a resurgence from a few modern bands like Issues and Emmure, and there are times where the modern metalcore scene seems to be on the verge to reintroducing the style, but what of the bands that have been around doing it for years? Well, aside from the few obvious bands (Korn, Bizkit, Evanescence) that are still around, Florida nu-metal band Nonpoint, have actually managed to keep a career going fairly continuously since the 1990s, despite mostly staying under the radar of the mainstream.
Throughout their career, Nonpoint have always felt slightly more sophisticated on a musical level than many of their alt-metal and nu-metal peers, often featuring more melodic vocal hooks, deeper vocal harmonies, more intricate guitar licks (including guitar solos, which have always been kind of an omission from nu-metal), and a little bit more variety in tempo and feel. "The Poison Red" continues this trend, with original vocalist Elias Soriano crooning his way through many of the songs, often relying on a very raspy-but-melodic voice. Guitarists Rasheed Thomas and B.C. Kochmit (recent additions from 2011 and 2014, respectively), play a plethora of tight riffs and lead parts, with B.C. playing many solos, which for a nu-metal record, are actually quite excellent. Nearly every song has a solo on it, an oddity for the genre. There is some variety when it comes to the individual songs on the record, with tracks like "Generation Idiot" feeling very riff-oriented and heavy, and tracks like "Be Enough" having a much more groove-oriented sound that is almost slightly progressive. Drummer Robb Rivera (one of two original members, along with Elias) and bassist Adam Woloszyn groove quite well throughout the album, as well.
On the other hand, while the performances are good, and the songs have a bit of variety to them, I can't help but feel that this album sounds *incredibly* dated. And not in an endearing way like many classic rock artists, or in a nostalgic manner that suggest an homage like many current artists aping blues and psychedelic rock. It just sounds like a bit of a dinosaur reminding us of decades long past (has it really been almost 20 years since this band's debut!?) and it does feel like a band like this has done little in the way of progression in their fairly lengthy career. As such, some of the songs get kind of plodding and mired down in nu-metal cliches, which isn't really a bad thing if your taste in music hasn't evolved since the mid-'90s, but it did kind of feel like I had flipped to a couple of really bad videos on Much Music while listening to this record.
As well, the "outro" sort of thing at the end of album closer "My Last Dying Breath" was... ill-advised. I realize these kind of "humourous" spoken word outros are kind of a tradition on nu-metal albums but this was the most cringe-worthy thing I've listened to in a very long time, and it really just felt like it was tacked on pointlessly and absolutely came close to completely ruining the album for me.
The production is not bad, not great either, but I've heard worse production on albums than this. The bass does tend to blend in with the drums a bit too much for my tastes, but otherwise there isn't really anything wrong with the production.
Lyrics — 6
Just like with the music, nu-metal lyrics are often a breeding ground for tired cliches, and despite Nonpoint's more sophisticated approach to the genre, they are no exception to the rule. Sensory overload and personal disconnection from the internet has been a running protest in almost every mainstream metal band's songs for the past several years now, and first single and album opener "Generation Idiot" exemplifies this trope to a T: "There isn't a better addiction than letting it out/Without a filter attached to the mouth/I got 99,000 problems with their very own problems/Once upon a time people talked to people/people didn't text, what's coming next?" Many of the rest of the songs focus on your absolutely predictable metal lyric content: the devaluation of art and music, politics, personal demons (including bad relationships, addictions, that sort of thing), and just nothing that we haven't heard in mainstream metal lyrics a thousand times before. In this day and age where most genres of music have lyrical themes this homogenized, it takes a lot to genuinely impress me with lyrics, and this record, while admirable, doesn't go out of its way to do so. And then when you get to lyrics like "Fuck a radio chorus/I wanna see blood for once without the judgements/Fuck a radio chorus/I wanna say what I want without you judging me," from the song "Radio Chorus," in one of the album's most hooky earworms of a chorus, you almost can't help but just not take this band seriously. And it would have been great if the song was dripping with sarcasm much like Korn's quite similar "Y'All Want a Single?," but the fact that this band actually seems to take itself quite seriously for the most part makes a lyrical cliche like this quite confusing.
However, Elias' skill as a vocalist does make up a bit for some lackluster lyrical cliches, as his voice is one of the most appealing aspects of this band's sound. His softer voice croons along quite ably through the lighter parts of the record, and when he puts more power into it, his raspier "gruff" singing voice is actually quite good. Absolutely no complaints about the singing on this record, and there are lots of great vocal parts, harmonies, and background hooks that'll keep you interested as a listener.
Overall Impression — 7
Despite such an old, tired musical sound full of desparate cliches, Nonpoint does make a pretty convincing case for nu-metal having some positive, redeeming traits. The musicianship of this band is actually quite good, putting them above a lot of sort of second-rate bubbling-under nu-metal acts from their day. And the fact that, unlike a lot of those nu-metal bands that hadn't been graced with huge mainstream successes, Nonpoint has actually maintained a pretty solid career track without breaking up or going on a huge hiatus, and have been releasing fairly consistent records throughout, makes it so that these guys have a very solid sound that's been finely honed from years of keeping it together. If you wax nostalgic for the days when nu-metal was still quite new and raw and heavy, this album will definitely appeal to you. Otherwise, it's good for a listen or two, but is probably not an album I'll be seeing heavily in my rotation. The opening track "Generation Idiot" is probably the best song on the album, just because it has a really interesting lead guitar part and is a good, powerful opening track, but to be honest, it isn't really a big standout track, and I don't think this album really has one. For all the variety on the record, the whole nu-metal thing does feel so homogenized that it can be pretty hard to pick out something extremely good from a small batch of songs. And one thing that I think would have dramatically improved this album's rating would be to remove that awful closing "hidden track" of sorts. It's just a good thing that it's at the very end of the album, so if you still buy this on CD and pop it in your Discman (and of course you still own a Discman, you Korn-loving '90s kid, you!), you can at least take comfort in the fact that once the final song actually ends, you can just pop the disc out and never have to listen to that strange, awful turd that closes the record.
All in all, though, this record, cliches and all, isn't all that bad. You're probably not going to lose yourself in it unless you're already a huge Nonpoint fan, but the songs are good for a listen and there's a lot of good riffs and solos to like on the album. The singing is probably the least offensive style in the genre, hands-down. And when this band gets into a good groove, it really is something special. Definitely worth checking out.