Released: Oct 16, 2015
Genre: Alternative Metal, Alternative Rock, Post-Hardcore, Metalcore
Number Of Tracks: 10
After a six year hiatus, Fightstar return heavier than ever with their fourth album, "Behind the Devil’s Back."
Behind The Devil's BackFeatured review by: UG Team, on october 24, 2015 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: Initially, many didn't expect much from Fightstar; with frontman Charlie Simpson originally coming to fame with the boy band Busted, prejudgments assumed Fightstar would be just another pop-centered rock endeavor. But with the release of their debut EP, "They Liked You Better When You Were Dead," and their conceptual debut album, "Grand Unification," Fightstar quickly became one of the UK's favorite offerings in the post-hardcore/emo scene. And though the band would never be able to find a label to stick with, their momentum continued to build, and their third album, "Be Human," would be Fightstar's highest-acclaimed album to date for displaying more elaboration in their style via a strong appeal to progressive/symphonic rock characteristics, as well as being adventurous (to a fault) with dabbling in different genres. This high point for Fightstar would be particularly brief, however. Disassembling a year after the release of their third album to attend to other projects, their hiatus would drag on longer than expected, and with the band finally getting back in the studio together earlier this year, their returning effort didn't have a label designated to release it.
Despite this scenario of continued label instability, losing their vantage point from their pre-hiatus peak, and anticipation for their returning album rising to uncomfortable levels of expectation, Fightstar trudged through to pick up from where they left off six years ago with "Behind the Devil's Back." Though the conventional idea of picking up from the multi-faceted and grandiose likes of "Be Human" would be to ante up on the multi-facetedness and grandiosity, Fightstar instead narrow down their focus to a couple key elements.
First, and most noticeably, is a bigger investment in their metal side - songs like "Animal," "Titan" and "Sink With the Snakes" are key examples of this, where menacing guitar riffs and Simpson's harsh vocals are the dominant characteristics. Second, and equally noticeable given the context of their previous album, is their refrainment from symphonic elements, and instead, investing much more in synthesizer elements, as heard in the new wave sheen in the final stretch of "Overdrive" and even more prominently in the following "More Human Than Human."
However, the biggest appeal of the sound in "Behind the Devil's Back" is how Fightstar intertwine these two key elements. With the metal intensity still being higher than any of their previous albums, synths play a juxtaposing role of soaring serenity and colorful melody on top of the meaty guitars. From the synth textures that give the gruff likes of "The Blackest of Birds" and the self-titled song more dimension, the sparkly arpeggios decorating the breakdown in "Sharp Tongue" and the bridge in "Murder All Over," to the smooth, ballady likes of the closing "Dive" climbing up to a metalcore eruption at the end, this dynamic and mature progressive metal recipe is similar to that of Northlane or The Contortionist. // 8
Lyrics: In Fightstar's previous albums, Simpson's conceptual lyric matter stuck to the same area of social critique and interpersonal relationship troubles set in hyperbolic dystopian futures, which was starting to lose impact with each subsequent album, and continues to do so in "Behind the Devil's Back." Not as elaborate in detail as lyrics in previous album, numerous lyrics here call back to symbolisms from earlier Fightstar songs. The savagery articulated with self-loathing in "Animal" that stems from the "Be Human" song "Damocles" is a decent twist on the same idea, but the titular song's theme of intertwined fate with a loved one that ties back to a handful of previous Fightstar lyrics, and that aforementioned fate that follows through in "Dive" ("With the last breath in my lungs / I surrender to the sea / But I belong here") mirroring the same fate in the penultimate "Grand Unification" song "Grand Unification (Part 2)" comes off like an uninspired fit of repetition.
On a better note, Simpson's callbacks from within the album make for some decent tethers between songs, like the symbolism of shipwrecks tying "Sharp Tongue" and "More Human Than Human" together, the murderous anarchy depicted in "Murder All Over" being indulged upon later in "Animal," and the Christian-themed crimson sky of in "Animal" continuing on in the following "Titan." But on an agonizing note, Simpson commits an awful reference-based lyrical bungle - rather than before, when his references paid tribute to anime like "Neon Genesis Evangelion" and "Ghost in the Shell," and existential philosophers like Kierkegaard, "Sink With the Snakes" has him angrily and awkwardly cribbing a line from "Anchorman" ("Where did you get those clothes? From the toilet store?"). // 6
Overall Impression: Perhaps due to the extended amount of time on hiatus, the new approach that Fightstar take with their sound in "Behind the Devil's Back" is a great show of growth from their previous albums. Veering away from the symphonic element that they maximized on in "Be Human," Fightstar change things up substantially with a new palette of sounds, but by keeping the duality of metal intensity and melodic serenity intact, they keep their songwriting ethos alive and refreshed. While the lyrics can still use a renaissance, the next phase of Fightstar displayed in "Behind the Devil's Back" is a rousing return. // 8
Behind The Devil's Back
jaybrink10101, on october 26, 2015 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Fightstar have always been a difficult band to try and understand. They seemingly rose to moderate success on the coat-tails of frontman Charlie Simpson's prior boy-band with an interesting blend of post-hardcore, metal, and alternative rock, released three albums and then disappeared.
They're back though, and their newest album is probably their strongest effort to date, and definitely the most cohesive. "Behind the Devil's Back" successfully merges the raw energy of "Grand Unification," the pop sensibilities of "One Day Son" and the progressive metal stylings of "Be Human" with splashes of synths from Alex Westaway and Dan Haigh's side project Gunship to create a heavy, versatile and undeniably catchy album. Most of the album was recorded on 7-string guitars and so thankfully there seems to be an increased focus on the composition of songs around riffs. There also seems to be more emphasis on vocal harmonies, which lends the album a more linear sound than some of their earlier work. The songwriting is a little more glued-together and less jarring than that of earlier releases, the performances are more impressive, and the production slick. As a whole, this album really impressed me.
01. "Sharp Tongue": Launching straight in with a very Deftones-esque riff, you're subsequently lead through clean-tone verses, a catchy chorus, and a terse, electronic driven bridge. This song really sets the tone of the rest of the album.
02. "Murder All Over": The electronics lead in to a very well thought-out rock song with cool dual-lead vocal work from both Charlie Simpson and Alex Westaway. The bridge of this song is one of the many times in this album that the increased focus on crafting riffs comes in evident - it stops the song from falling flat and losing the energy.
03. "Behind the Devil's Back": This actually could be a Deftones song for the most part. It's heavy, riff-focused, slightly off-kilter, features killer drum work from resident stick-man Omar Abidi and unusual vocal melodies scattered throughout.
04. "The Blackest of Birds": A more straightforward rock song. It's strong throughout, with a memorable chorus and a few headbang-inducing riffs scattered at important points.
05. "Overdrive": Easily the most radio-oriented song off this album, the whole song has a very mainstream vibe but for one low-A string riff that breaks up the two halves of the chorus. It's unbelievably catchy, features the most '80s-esque bridge you've ever heard, some driving-related lyrics, a cool little guitar solo, and a delicious outro section. If anything, it feels a little too short.
06. "More Human Than Human": A vocal-heavy number, Alex Westaway takes the mic for this whole song to great effect. It's one of the more conventional rock songs on the album, but it's moody and genuinely emotional and features some of the cooler synth arrangements the album has on offer.
07ю "Animal": Fightstar drops you in with some 0-1-0 riffing and aggressive screams before transitioning into the big Fightstar chorus that we've come to expect. For some reason the production of this song really stands out to me - regardless of that it is one of the stronger songs here.
08. "Titan": A standout vocal performance from Charlie Simpson here on both cleans and screams. It's also on of the more aggressive songs on the album - but of course the aggression is tempered with big vocal harmonies, clean guitar passages, and some groove-filled drum work. There's a tasteful ambient bridge section which lasts for just the right amount of time before dropping you back into a final, ominous, doomy riff.
09. "Sink With the Snakes": Another aggressive track, another great chorus. One of the things about this album being more stylistically consistent is that there is less to comment on between each song. Even so, the mood in this one song shifts from really pissed off to really upbeat really fast.
10. "Dive": A nice mellow closer, "Dive" offers up an almost typical ballad with Charlie Simpson's smooth falsetto serving up a simply hypnotic chorus. Of course, it all goes to pot halfway through when Simpson and Westaway remember that they're playing detuned guitars and the song quickly evolves into 40 final seconds of frenetic riffage. // 9
Lyrics: Charlie Simpson has always, to me, been "quite a good" lyricist. He covers a range of topics without falling into too many cliches or traps and yet still falls slightly short of the level of lyrical prowess offered up by some others. This album is really no different. "Animal" is about werewolves, "Overdrive" is about driving fast as a means of escaping, and "Sharp Tongue" seems to be advice to a younger person.
Either way, there are some cool lyrics in the album - "Can you sharpen your tongue kid/I know you will, find your voice in the thunder, son/If you learn from the ship wrecks, in time/You'll be the hand that fights." Simpson digs into allegory and metaphor to convey whatever it is that he feels the need to. Both Charlie Simpson and Alex Westaway seem to have improved with the time off. Both seem more confident and powerful in their means of delivery - particularly Westaway. It's also nice to have a heavier emphasis on screaming from Charlie Simpson. It goes well with the more riff-based approach. // 7
Overall Impression: Fightstar have used their time off to develop a more cohesive sound that still belongs uniquely to them without as much genre-hopping and mood-shifting. It might not be remembered as their strongest album to date, but it should definitely be in the top few. The more linear writing style, adoption of detuned/extended range guitars, and greater emphasis on riffs has lent itself to a really cool sounding effort. If you're a fan of old Fightstar and you can get your head around the streamlined songwriting and greater synth presence of this album, I suspect you'll enjoy it greatly. The singles are all very strong and reminiscent of earlier-days Fightstar whilst still bringing something new to the table. Very solid album. // 9