Sound — 8
From when they came out of the blocks with "Leave a Whisper" Shinedown have stuck to a pretty similar formula and it's worked incredibly well. That formula is the blend of hard rock, aggression and assertiveness with fringes of vulnerability, sorrow and doubt. But with "Amaryllis" the aggression seemed forced and the sorrow insincere, as if they had an idea of what they wanted the album to be but didn't quite know how to do it. It's not a bad album by any means, but it felt disjointed and awkward when you listened to it as a whole, like it was a bit of a patchwork of ideas.
"Threat to Survival" is the antithesis of that. From start to finish it ebbs and flows, like it was crafted and cared for by someone who wanted to make an album - rather than a collection of singles. There is no doubt the band have taken a huge leap forward here - the production on this album is leaps and bounds ahead of any of their previous albums - it's sounds modern and fresh, like it belongs in 2015. Each song has the classic guitar driven Shinedown we have come to know - but the songs now seem tighter and when things soften up it's done so with more confidence. There are some lovely little layers in each song, some subtle, some not so - but they make the difference.
The fundamental Shinedown formula is still at work, but for the first time since perhaps even "Us and Them" this album is reflective of the times. Some would say this is a bad thing and that they're simply pandering to commercialism - but let's not forget, they've been around for 14 years and in that time a lot has changed. In order to survive, they need to push forward and bring in a new generation of fans to add to the loyal core they have built.
The album is aptly named "Threat to Survival" - is it too much of a stretch to think this points to their own existence as a band? 14 years is a long time to be a rock band these days, yet they have managed to survive and even grow, whilst many around them have gone by the wayside. But the fight to survive is continuous, they can't simply rest on prior success - they have to grow, evolve and move on. This album is a statement of intent and it makes its point perfectly.
Lyrics — 8
Brent Smith has a brilliantly distinctive voice and he knows how to use it, that perhaps has been the one consistent element across all of their albums. The tone of his voice lends itself to both pumping you up and calming you down, as if flicking a switch. It's this diverse and varied tone which has allowed the band to create albums with harder songs like "Cut the Cord" to the more rock ballad sounds of "Thick as Thieves." All things to all men. Lyrically Brent at times sails very close to cliché, but manages to avoid this in the most - and it's been that way since the beginning. Again I would say lyrically Shinedown have been consistently good, this album is no different.
Overall Impression — 8
When looking at other reviews of this album and fan comments they all seem to universally agree that this album is far from the bands best. I would disagree. After 14 years together and 4 albums, you might have asked "what more have they got left in the tank?" "Amaryllis" was a bit of a cross roads - it showed glimmers of a fresh sounding Shinedown, but lacked conviction.
This album however feels more assured, like the band has now found the direction it wants to take and is charging down that path at full steam. I thoroughly enjoyed "Threat to Survival" as an album - it's been a while since I've listened to a full album start to finish, then wanted to listen to the whole thing again without skipping any song. The opening 3 songs are in my belief as strong as any of their previous albums and manage to perfectly sum up the whole tone of this album. This is a refreshed sounding Shinedown, full of confidence and ready for the future. Ultimately they are doing what they need to evolve and grow - to survive.