Album Review
Fightstar - Grand Unification Album Cover

Fightstar - Grand Unification

Reviewed by
Fightstar - Grand Unification
Record Label: Island
Release Date: March 13, 2006 (UK)
Over a year after debut EP, They Liked You Better When You Were Dead, was released, Fightstar had gone a long way towards winning over the rock community. Half the battle had been won, but there were still doubts about the London based quartet's credibility (due to a certain Mr Simpson's past) and many felt questions still needed to be answered. Redemption would prove sweet for the post-hardcore rockers...

Asked to describe Fightstar's musical spectrum by Alternative Press magazine, Charlie Simpson explained, "Our whole aim in music is to combine the light and the dark shades. To make something utterly brutal and heavy, and on the other side have something really delicate and beautiful. The fusion of those things is what Fightstar does."

There could be no better way to describe the band's sound captured on this full-length debut, brilliantly produced by rock veteran Colin Richardson (Slipknot, Funeral For A Friend). There is a natural progression from their early EP, with the production and song's being grander as a whole.

Grand Unification has a concept, but the concept is there should you wish to find it and isn't blatantly shoved in your face. The album starts with sleeping and ends with waking up, meaning, in theory, the rest takes place in a dream. The substance of their message is drawn from life experiences, but it's told in surreal settings. This is where the Neon Genesis Evangelion influences come in; the end of the world and subsequent rebirth (most obvious in the artwork) and trying to make modern day society a better place.

The short intro (1:38), "To Sleep," has obvious post-rock influences. Echoed screams hide behind the intricate guitar lines and drum beat before second single, "Grand Unification Pt. I," comes crashing in to kick proceedings off in style. The heavy breakdown is a particular highlight.

"Waste A Moment" has more of a grunge feel to it, with less frantic verses. Simpson's growling screams in the middle section are powered by the band's heavy dynamics. "Sleep Well Tonight" and "Build An Army" are brooding numbers that make instant classics. Simpson and Westaway's exchanging vocals rub off each other's superbly, while the instrumentation offers great versatility throughout. The latter is slightly heavier and more metallic.

"Paint Your Target" and "Here Again (Last Conversation)" produce the killer melodies while still maintaining the layered, big sound and vocal harmonies from both men.

Three of the tracks are re-recordings from They Liked You Better When You Were Dead. "Lost Like Tears In Rain" and "Hazy Eyes" sound fresher and meatier as a result. "Mono" is the only slight disappointment for me. While it still remains a great track, it loses some of its raw power and emotion that the EP recording brilliantly captured.

"Open Your Eyes" is a softer, more melodic track. Some great hooks and a well executed chorus mean there is no dip in quality here.

"Grand Unification Pt. II" dishes out perhaps the most 'epic' sounding song on the album. Piano led with narration, the track moves through gentle vocals producing atmospheric verses before the avalanche of stabbing guitars come crashing in for the perfect ending.

The closer, "Wake Up," is another triumph with its sweeping guitars and memorable chorus.

What's so impressive about this record is its diversity, while still maintaining a signature sound and style throughout. The musicianship is admirable with the stop-start dynamics and pounding riffs that gives the listener plenty to take in.

If you like big, diverse rock music then this is the record for you (even if you secretly don't want to admit it). Having an open minded approach and willing to give the band a chance are key.

Fightstar can simply ignore the haters now because they let the music does the talking on Grand Unification. As for Simpson's past, well that is now well and truly the past. This is a mighty victory.

Track Listing01. To Sleep - 1:38
02. Grand Unification Pt. I - 3:19
03. Waste a Moment - 3:39
04. Sleep Well Tonight - 4:15
05. Paint Your Target - 3:18
06. Build an Army - 4:03
07. Here Again (Last Conversation) - 3:16
08. Lost Like Tears in Rain - 4:02
09. Open Your Eyes - 4:09
10. Mono - 6:26
11. Hazy Eyes - 3:15
12. Grand Unification Pt. II - 3:58
13. Wake Up - 4:38

Recommended if You LikeDeftones; Funeral for a Friend; post-hardcore

This review is a user submitted review from Cal Lewis. You can see all of Cal Lewis's submitted reviews here.
Displaying posts 1 - 10 of 10
03:27 PM on 12/24/08
Here, It Never Snowed
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Kbm600's Avatar
I've been meaning to check out this release. I have their other one with the machine guy on the cover, but I haven't listened to this yet. I need to check it out from the sounds of your review. Good job.
04:07 AM on 12/25/08
Broden Terry
I'm glad I built myself an igloo
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Broden Terry's Avatar
Good review. I really liked this release, only thing I thought was slightly disappointing was the re-recorded EP tracks didn't feel quite as "large" comapred to the older EP versions.
I'd be very interested to read your thoughts on One Day Son and the new album when it drops. Keep it up.
07:11 AM on 12/26/08
Be Human
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symbiote28's Avatar
great review .. one of my all time fav albums .. infact, my fav fightstar release!
05:31 PM on 12/26/08
I feel so L.M.N.O.P.
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josh8282's Avatar
Love this album too.
11:32 PM on 12/27/08
Tonight we burn out bright
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jaredCoO's Avatar
Finally, someone bothered to review Grand Unification on this site!

Great job, looking forward to a review of One Day Son and Alternate Endings.
07:57 PM on 12/30/08
Cal Lewis
Stay Gold
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Cal Lewis's Avatar
Good review. I really liked this release, only thing I thought was slightly disappointing was the re-recorded EP tracks didn't feel quite as "large" comapred to the older EP versions.
I'd be very interested to read your thoughts on One Day Son and the new album when it drops. Keep it up.
Thanks for your kind words. I agree to a certain extent about the EP re-recordings. To begin with I didn't like the new ones as much as I did the originals. However, after a few listens I really enjoyed "Lost Like Tears..." and "Hazy Eyes" just as much, if not more than the originals. It was just "Mono" that didn't quite do it for me, like I mentioned in the review just didn't maintain the powerful feel and rawness the EP version did. The band themselves have admitted in a couple of interviews I've listened to that they didn't capture this to the effect they did on the EP.

Still that is only one a minor, minor downside for me. I love this record, it really is fantastic and ticks all the boxes to my "ideal" sounding music.
03:01 PM on 01/15/09
Yeah, this is love.
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Kobrakai09's Avatar
I gave the album:

Vocals 8.75
Musicianship 8.5
Lyrics 7.5
Production 9.5
Creativity 8.5
Lasting Value 7.75
Reviewer Tilt 8
Average: 84%

The production on the album is amazing - the guitars are crunching, the drums are pounding and vocally the performance is sound, varying from high-pitched wails to gritty barks. Simpson is surprisingly versatile.
But I do think that there are a few weaker songs, like Open Your Eyes and Lost Like Tears In The Rain which, whilst was good on the EP, just didn't quite fit on the album. Not as though these songs are bad, but just not as good as the rest. I'm also not a fan of Waste A Moment, and I think Wake Up starts well, but the latter half of the song is a bit tedious.

On the other hand though, Grand Unification Pt I, Build An Army, Sleep Well Tonight and Mono are excellent songs and some of their finest work to date which helps drive the score right up.

On another note, some of their B-Sides are great on Alternate Endings, in particular Fight For Us which just sounds amazing blasted through speakers or headphones.
06:21 AM on 03/28/09
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EmotionalJack's Avatar
GREAT review. WONDERFUL album. Paint your target is a killer single.
10:00 AM on 07/26/12
Registered User
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SoftMints's Avatar
I really like this record, very bold. And it's an interesting kind of alternative. I would also like it to Deftones, I can't really think of a band that does what they do in this record but Deftones is perhaps similar. Waste A Moment for me is a highlight, and I was also impressed by the maturity of grand uni II.

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