Fear Before - Fear Before
Record Label: Equal Vision Records
Release Date: October 28, 2008
Before a single note of their new music had been heard, Fear Before raised some eyebrows and, to a degree, expectations when they announced that they were officially shortening their name (from Fear Before the March of Flames) and that their new release would be self-titled. The name change hints at the idea that the band has undergone a reinvention of sorts, while the decision to go with an eponymous release, which wouldn’t have been unusual if this were a debut album, would seem to indicate that the band considers the record to be a defining moment in their career.
Fear Before are no strangers to reinvention, having released three very different sounding albums: their debut, Odd How People Shake, which followed the sing-and-scream formula, but showed definite promise; its more brutal and technical follow-up, Art Damage; and the very progressive-leaning The Always Open Mouth. With The Always Open Mouth, Fear Before achieved a level of creativity and artistry rarely seen in the realm of heavy music. If Fear Before have reached the next level in their evolution and consider their new record to be their finest work, count me as one person who is eager to listen.
The end result finds Fear Before, in an ironic sense, remaining true to form by not completely revisiting any of their previous albums. Truth be told, though, this sounds much more like the Fear Before that recorded The Always Open Mouth than the band that created either of the first two albums. Fans of The Always Open Mouth should find Fear Before to be a satisfying listen, while fans who were puzzled and dismayed by the band’s transformation between their second and third albums and who were looking for a return to the unfettered chaos of Art Damage will not find it here. If anything, Fear Before sounds like an attempt to incorporate much of the experimentation from the last album into a more focused and straight-forward rock album.
The opener, “Treeman,” gives the listener a good idea of what the album is going to sound like. It’s moderately heavy and features the dual vocals of David Marion and Adam Fisher. Marion has added more melodic vocals to his repertoire, bringing another dimension to the interplay between the two vocalists, with his lower range complementing Fisher’s higher register. You could pretty much say the same thing if the album had opened with the second track “I’m Fine Today.” There is a very consistent feel from song to song on this album, in contrast with the mercurial nature of The Always Open Mouth, which featured extended ambient breaks punctuated by frenzied screams and heavy riffs.
“Fear Before Doesn’t Listen to People Who Don’t Like Them,” the first of the album’s tracks to be unveiled to the world, presents the closest thing to a catchy chorus the band has ever written, with the repeated gang-chant mantra “The Earth / It spins, it shakes / It spits you out / It knows your name.” Marion opens up “Get Your Life Together” by shouting angrily over drummer Clayton Holyoak’s frantic pounding before the song erupts into perhaps the heaviest track on the album. The sparse opening section of “Jabberwocky” and the electronic elements and robotic voice (similar to what’s heard on “My (Fucking) Deer Hunter”) on “Everything’s Not Shitty” are reminiscent of The Always Open Mouth. “Tycho” features some interesting guitar work, opening up with crunching riffs before spiraling into the stratosphere, Circa Survive-style, on the back half.
The closing trio of “Bad Days,” “Stay Weird,” and “Review of Our Lives (Epic),” offer a mix of atmosphere and heaviness, of melodic vocals and screaming, similar to the rest of the album. If there’s a major complaint with Fear Before, it would be just that: the songs are a bit formulaic, although it is uniquely Fear Before’s formula. This album is not a huge step forward for Fear Before, merely a refinement of the skills they learned while making The Always Open Mouth. Some will probably decry this album’s increased accessibility over its predecessor as an adulteration rather than a refinement, but I think it was a smart direction for the band to set off in. Had they made another progressive leap for this album from where they were previously, it could have ended up like Lover, the Lord Has Left Us, which was probably a lot more rewarding to make than it is to listen to. Instead, they decided that they’ve toyed around enough and the time has come to put together everything they’ve learned so far into one cohesive effort, a final exam of sorts. It’s a test they pass with flying colors. If this is indicative of where Fear Before are headed in the future, I’m definitely tagging along for the ride.
Good review man but I think this album and band are garbage. I sort of still like Art Damage so I always give new Fear Before a chance but like is just so-so. The Lambgoat review pretty much sums of my feelings on this album. http://lambgoat.com/albums/view.aspx?id=2684