Threat Signal

Under Reprisal

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Hamilton, Ontario's Threat Signal are something of a rarity in the increasingly overcrowded field of Scandinavian-style black metal, and it's due entirely to one key factor: singer Jon Howard just plain ****in' rocks. Most contemporary death metal bands are unintentionally hilarious because in the wrong hands, the now-clich├ęd "death grunt" vocal style makes the singer sound like a constipated Muppet, and it's hard not to giggle at something like that. Unlike most of yer more melodically oriented death metal bands, which usually have one of the guitarists providing clean vocals in counterpoint to the lead screamer's shredded larynx bellow, Howard handles both styles on Under Reprisal, and while his clean vocals are perfectly good, it's his screaming that really pins the listener's ears back. (To put it in strictly Canadian terms, he really knows how to give 'er.) There's nothing comical about Howard in full unrestrained bellow, because he largely ignores the dangerous lower register in favor of a sound that recalls old-school metal vocalists of the Ronnie James Dio stripe, jacked up on triple espressos and unresolved anger management issues. Add to this the fact that the songs are both melodically strong ("A New Beginning" kicks off with an opening guitar riff that could be this generation of budding metal guitarists' very own "Sweet Child o' Mine" before locking into a killer stutter-step unison riff that sounds like a funkier Pantera) and suitable for full-on banging, and Under Reprisal is clearly one of the better pure metal albums of 2006.

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