Considering how skull-drillingly dreary so many hard rock and nu-metal returns have been, you’d be forgiven for not exactly being thrilled by the idea of a new Nonpoint album. As it is, they’re one of the low-tier bands who’ve been slogging away on baffling inertia alone, putting out a new album every couple of years to sate their audience and do nothing elsewhere. That’s one thing you can say for them – where bands like Godsmack and Theory Of A Deadman are so ubiquitous that every piece of new dreck they churn out already has its high platform, Nonpoint have at least kept to their own lane. Maybe it was their dreadful cover of Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight that kept them there, but the bottom line is that any expectations for what Nonpoint can deliver right now are exceedingly low.
But, in what may be 2018’s equivalent of Nickelback’s Feed The Machine, X is perfectly solid album that doesn’t find Nonpoint expanding their limited moveset, but simply improving on what they do have. It’s quite a nice change of pace when a band describes their new album as their best yet and it’s actually true, and while the greasy, aged ghost of nu-metal past holds it from being more than simply okay, a greater focus on being heavy enough and catchy enough ends up serving them pretty well.
It’s not all fantastic though, and also like Feed The Machine, X succumbs to the supreme limitations of Nonpoint’s sound that do it no favours. For one, if this album was released in 2003, that wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone given how heavily the band lean on late-period nu-metal, whether that’s in clinical, industrial-tinged guitars that hit hard enough without any distinctive layering or tact whatsoever, Elias Soriano’s insistence on chest-beating posturing in his rap-metal flows, and a rather dulled set of lyrics that fit into more or less the same boundary. It’s definitely not the album to go into for any sort of cerebral challenge, and with tracks like Crashing or Dodge Your Destiny, there have been plenty of serviceable alternatives in this genre alone to offer the same pounding, metallic sugar rush, most likely better.
But despite all of this – and despite Nonpoint operating on a level that’s fundamental at best – it still feels like they’re trying with this one. There’s a focus on bigger, more imposing riffs and choruses that pack a more formidable punch, and while that’s hardly novel to any degree, tracks like Chaos And Earthquakes and Wheel Against Will are hard-hitting enough to work. Even when compared to B-tier nu-metal acts attempting similar things, Soriano’s more guttural vocal approach paired with slightly heavier instrumental avoids feeling so regimented and stale, at least for the most part.
And it must be noted that this is all relative; pit X against the best metal albums released this year – or even the best radio-metal albums released this year – and it couldn’t be more blatant how out of their depth Nonpoint are. But compared to what they and so many of their peers have put out in the past, X at least deserves to be viewed a bit kinder, if only because it actually feels as though Nonpoint are working towards streamlining the nu-metal machine instead of another unnecessarily tired effort.
For fans of: Sevendust, Chevelle, Spineshank
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘X’ by Nonpoint is released on 24th August on Spinefarm Records.