Artist: Fit For a King
Here’s a common notion in today’s heavy music sphere: clinging to the past. So many of us are so hung up on yesteryear’s greatest hits that we refuse to acknowledge progression—until, of course, 2016 rolls into 2017 and all of the sudden, everything put out the preceding year is coated in a lustrous sheen on nostalgia and retrograde appeal. In short, some musicians—and many music critics—have a deathgrip on the past.
But not Fit for a King.
Even considering their latest album’s name, the Deathgripin question isn’t on retaining the metallic aggression of their last album—nor is it bent on writing this decade’s equivalent to The Devil Wears Prada’s Plagues. The Deathgrip that is the namesake of Fit for a King’s latest full-length release is the ferocious, iron-handed grip they have around the listener’s throat. From the first crushing breakdown of “The End’s Beginning,” through the riff-driven “Disease” and catchy “Shadows & Echoes,” all the way to the end of the titular track, Fit for a King are a testament to progression, as one of modern metalcore’s biggest names are back with their freshest and most envigoratingly original sound yet.
From the first seconds of “The End’s Beginning,” Fit for a King have the listener in a chokehold, throttling them almost incessantly for the next thirty minutes. Everything from percussionist Jared Easterling’s enthusiastic assault behind the kit to guitarist Bobby Lynge’s lurid, groovy chugging is perfectly tuned to pierce the listener’s ears like an ice pick made of pure, precise metallic aggression. Even while relatively simple, the dynamic established early in “The End’s Beginning” serves as a taste for the amalgamation behind brooding brutality and catchy, groovy metal that defines Deathgrip. Easterling hammers away like the band’s bold, burly heart. Faster, more furious songs like the aptly named “Pissed Off” and “More than Nameless” see Easterling dominating with quick fills and fleet footwork—all while bassist Ryan O’Leary rumbles alongside him. O’Leary’s groovy, thick bass adds depth and density to Deathgrip‘s faster moments while making the truly jaw-dropping and jarring moments of heaviness more brutal than the listener has ever heard Fit for a King. The climactic breakdown of “More than Nameless,” or the entirety of the positively lethal track “Stacking Bodies” serve as spine-shattering displays of sinister aggression—much in part to the low, earth-rumbling foundation paved by O’Leary’s bass, and, of course, Lynge’s lacerating and intense fretwork. Lynge roams from pseudo-progressive metalcore licks on “Cold Room” and “We Are All Lost” to barbaric displays of hardcore-meets-metal mastery on “Stacking Bodies” and “Pissed Off”–making his writing and riffing more dynamic and diverse than it has ever been. Equal parts aggravated and tactful, Lynge takes the backdrop provided by O’Leary and Easterling and shines on top of it, making Deathgrip the most musically engaging album Fit for a King have crafted to date.
To speak of Fit for a King, however, is to speak of the band’s renowned frontman, Ryan Kirby—especially after a video of a particularly impressive performance of “Warpath” went viral early in the year. If he didn’t have big shoes to fill after that video and considering Fit for a King’s impressive discography, he certainly did after—shoes he filled effortlessly, as if he were a giant trying on toddler’s Keds. From the first lines of “Pissed Off,” Kirby’s continued vocal progression is evident. Aided by bassist “Tuck” O’Leary, Kirby simply dominates from start to finish. His harsh, hefty mid-range yells drop into devastating low bellows and screeching, skyscraping high shrieks, with ample—yet tasteful—amounts of clean singing and pitched, harmonized yelling to stave off monotony and play to Deathgrip‘s bountiful musical variety. While “Pissed Off” and “Stacking Bodies” see Kirby channeling aggression, confusion and bewilderment towards the world around him, more balanced songs like “Unclaimed, Unloved” see the band using harsh vocals to convey energy while the catchy, creatively crafted choruses sooth the listener, staying stuck firmly in the listener’s head. Kirby’s vocal talent—as well as his ability to channel thoughts and emotions into intelligent lyrics and meaningful turns of phrase—have stepped their game up drastically from Fit for a King’s previous (and already poignant) release, furthering Deathgrip‘s chokehold on the listener’s attention.
Previous efforts from Fit for a King were varying shades of solid—engaging, catchy and aggressive, but all plagued by errant monotony that made each release wear thin rather quickly. Deathgrip does away with that—stripping out some of the more superfluous aspects of the band’s dynamic to give a raw, relentless display of comprehensive metal-turned-hardcore mastery that demands to be acknowledged. With dissonant, downtuned bruisers like “Stacking Bodies” to send mosh pits into full-swing contrasted by more emotionally riveting songs like “Cold Room,” telling the story of the death of a child and the struggle to feel complete as a parent thereafter, Deathgrip devastates with its heaviness, but also does a number on the listener’s emotional sensibilities as well. Fit for a King are as furious as we’ve ever heard them—but ten times more mature, energetic, dynamic and explosive, making Deathgrip an album that, after years of growth, is truly fit for a king.
For Fans Of: The Devil Wears Prada, Like Moths to Flames, For Today, For All Eternity
By: Connor Welsh