During the recording of their new self-titled record, Denver, Colorado’s Fear Before The March of Flames became Fear Before. The band viewed their mission with a fresh focus, hence the name revision. “We’ve undergone a lot of member changes and have changed a great deal as individuals,” explains guitarist Adam Fisher. With a hint of Circa Survive’s penchant for melody-soaked polyrhythm’s, Nine Inch Nails’ flare for musical theatrics and the abrasive crunch of Norma Jean, Fear Before delivers their most far-reaching musical contribution to date.
The music reflects the evolution. The new songs rumble with crushing heaviness, thanks in part to the layers of guitars. “Get Your Life Together” nears Neurosis proportions – the weightiest song in Fear Before’s already hefty catalog. Yet the depth and size of songs such as “Jabberwocky” manifest in their quiet, gloomy passages. Marion says, “We wanted that darker, creepier vibe.”
New drummer Clayton “Goose” Holyoak and newer guitarist Zachary “Binks” Hutchings add color to the band’s already panoramic sound. Credit bassist Mike Madruga for the overall oppressively bass-heavy feel of the record. Fisher says, “Everyone wanted to take an equal part in the writing and we wanted it to be a record full of songs that we jammed out together.”
What is most noticeable about Fear Before is the primacy of the vocals. “I think the biggest change was vocally,” argues Marion. “I worked hard on writing melodies. It was fun to try new things.” Marion employs multiple tones and moods to accentuate the material. Guitarist Adam Fisher continues to complement Marion with ricocheting backing vocals. Marion says, “I don’t think we had a true vocal record before this one.” Numerous guest vocalists contribute, including members of The Fall of Troy, Heavy Heavy Low Low and Portugal. The Man. “We wanted to have as many buds on the record as possible. We are who we are because of the people we’ve met in our years of touring,” Fisher says.
The band once again enlisted Casey Bates (Chiodos, Portugal. The Man) to translate their musical ideas into recorded reality. “Working with Casey is amazing,” Marion states. “It was extremely comfortable. No one was afraid to make suggestions or criticize anything.” Bates’ production gives the material the cinematic scope it deserves. The songs drip dynamics, with each traveling down unlit roads towards unforeseen destinations. Some sound more like the theatrical prog rock extravaganzas of 70s purveyors of the form: Yes, Queen, even The Who in their rock opera moments.
The lyrics reflect the band’s trials and tribulations since the release of their previous record, evidenced by titles such as “I’m Fine Today,” “Bad Days” and “Review Our Lives.” Though the tone seems steeped in despair, Fear Before trade in hope. Marion elaborates: “The lyrics are about all of our lives over the past couple of years. They’re about growing up and not being bummed out. They’re optimistic.” Fisher concurs, “There’s definitely a more positive vibe on this record.”
The band built their career on not following set patterns or operating according to expected assumptions. Each record has been a twist and improvement upon the last. 2006’s The Always Open Mouth was a quantum leap over 2004’s Art Damage, which bested their 2003 debut Odd How People Shake. Fear Before pulls the band further away from their frenzied mathy hardcore roots, though the elements that made them exciting in 2003 remain in 2008.
In a time when the fetid shores of independent music wallow in the murk of mediocrity, Fear Before offer solace in exciting sounds. They’re still crazed, angry and brutal but they’ve added melody to their sonic arsenal. Fisher concludes, “It’s just a testament to our claim that we are always going to make different records.”