02. Through My Eyes
03. The Beginning of the End
04. United We Stand
05. Beyond Recognition
06. Another Source of Light
07. Hate Machine
11. In Repair
12. Escape From Reality
13. To Remember
2009 Nuclear Blast Records
Threat Signal might have gotten signed based on the success of "Rational Eyes" on Garageband.com throughout 2004 and early 2005 (if I remember right, they didn't even play a show or anything - ahh, the magic of the Internet!), leading to that Nuclear Blast deal, recording with Fear Factory's Christian Old Wolbers, a bunch of subsequent hype, and almost 20,000 records sold. And I'll be damned if the band's 2006 debut, Under Reprisal, wasn't heavy, skillfully written, and fucking catchy despite that magical Internet record deal.
Sure it was blatant Fear Factory riffing, good-cop bad-cop vocals, and tons of throaty 'melodic' singing that would make Linkin Park proud, but the songwriting on Under Reprisal was top notch, too. The guitar melodies and leads were memorable and incredibly proficient and ultimately, the record left a lasting impression on this guy...and his iPod. Now, fast forward two or three years, a bunch of member rotations, a bailed headlining US tour and other such shenanigans and there's the release of Vigilance, the band's second in its six year history.
Gone is co-founder/guitarist Rich Howard (cousin of co-founder/vocalist Jon Howard) and Kyle McKnight, who bailed in 2007, the latter responsible for most of Under Reprisal's frantically tasteful fret leads. With that sizeable line-up switch, arguably the band's strongest prescence - aside from Howard's upfront vocals - stepped out of the fold to pursue 'other interests.' Thankfully, Adam Weber and Travis Montgomery (both 2007 additions) fill in aptly; sort of.
Vigilance does indeed continue down the road Under Reprisal beat through the brush, but that's sort of the problem. Instead of cutting a different path from Point A to Point B on Vigilance, it feels like Threat Signal just found that same path from 2006 and started hiking it again. Still present are the almost nu-metal tones and staccato riffing from the band's first release (or any Fear Factory record, for that matter), and Howard still injects his sorta-trademark, but sorta-Linkin Park-ish choruses left and right. And there are some really adept, skillful leads. The problem is that it all reminds me of the last record. Usually that's okay for brutal bands out for brutality's sake, but thirteen tracks of the same sugar-coated eleven tracks from the last record really is a stretch.
That's not to say Vigilance doesn't have its strong points. "Lost," although generically named, is a scorcher and "United We Stand" features some awesome, fleet-fingered guitar tandem lead work and showcases varied structure (read: not verse, chorus, repeat), but then again the end sounds almost exactly like the flange-tastic end to "As I Destruct" or "A New Beginning" from the band's prior effort. And for the most part, if you didn't like Under Reprisal's songwriting, Howard's nasally 'clean' singing and always-apparent Fear Factory-isms, Vigilance probably won't change your mind.
Bottom line: Sure it's more of the same, but if you can get past the whole Dino Cazares-inspired riffs and Howard's sugar-coated choruses, there is some great guitar work on Vigilance and the song structure is creative and memorable. It's just a lot more of what was on Under Reprisal three years ago. If that didn't spark an interest, then this won't either. And while a lot of Vigilance is similar to the band's prior effort, Under Reprisal was a grower of a record. Let's hope this one is too.