Don’t you miss that old school bangin’ metalcore? You know that mid-2000’s vibe of balls to the wall, chock full of riffage and maniacal breakdowns that made you feel as if your face was melting clean off, yet retained that true melodic tempo you could tap your feet to while your head’s banging clean off your shoulders? And akin to reading so many food product’s ingredients list, you pray there’s no additives. No synthesizers, no added drum’n’bass, no other weird instruments like a banjo…on a METAL song (not that things like that can’t be badass in their own right)! It’s been some time since there was really anything in the core world in general that didn’t have a plethora of so many things that made an album anything that really resembles what metalcore used to be. Just a sea of monotonous hybrids that seem to have forgotten what truly defines a metalcore album. Until now. It’s been four long years since Phinehas’ fourth studio album, Dark Flag. Another prime example of just pure and simple shred-a-licious metalcore. But finally, a new album has arisen from the ashes with The Fire Itself. Now, the time between albums can be more than understood, considering the members have families they must take care of, tours that must be played, and day to day jobs to attend…one can only fathom how difficult it must have been to find the time to sit down and create. Then…the pandemic struck. Now, let me be clear; there is NOTHING positive about the pandemic itself, but there have been a few small silver linings. One of which being for many of us, the time to take a beat and focus on what needs focusing. For vocalist, Sean McCulloch this was a time of reflection. To stare deep into the mirror and acknowledge some dark truths he had yet to face, but now was the time. Through these self-realizations The Fire Itself was born. An album that is a cathartic release for many of the singer’s (and I’m sure other band member’s) inner demons, which now lay burnt and charred in the flames of what is Phinehas’ most personal and fierce album to date.
FLOW / LONGEVITY / ORIGINALITY
This album had a way of snapping my attention into a sniper-like focus straight outta the gate. Single, “Eternally Apart”, begins with an acoustic guitar playing a melody reminiscent of Metallica or even Iron Maiden, and once the onslaught of heavy truly begins we’re met with an earth-shattering scream from McCulloch and a riff that could have been straight off an As I Lay Dying from back in their heyday (Shadows Are Security, An Ocean Between Us, etc). Most of the songs on the album seem to have this ebb and flow of brain-rattling heaviness paired with a melodic drive that truly makes for an enjoyable experience from front to back. Perhaps the biggest swing out of left field is “The Storm In Me”. This song just hits different. It FLOWS different. The first half of the song almost had a Thrice vibe to it was soft and somber vocals and instrumentals that could have easily fit in the Vheissu-Alchemy Index era, whereas the second half oozes with hard-hitting, emotional metal. Normally on some albums this could have been considered a hiccup if you will, but Phinehas knew exactly what they were doing with this track, and it makes the album as a whole all that much fresher and more impactful.
Listen, if my opening paragraph didn’t tell any of you exactly how much I vibe with this style of metalcore then you aren’t paying attention. I know it’s my job to give you a clear idea of what’s in store and I think I’ve painted a pretty damn clear picture thus far. If you dig no frills, tried and true metalcore that has a metric shit-ton of balls with no lack of true and deep emotion then The Fire Itself will be an album for you and it will be on spin for years to come. If you need electronic beats behind them guitars, then stop reading this immediately! I kid. We all have our preferences, and one should never be closed-minded. But my point is, this album is exactly what metalcore should be. A solid, beyond well-written, thoughtful album and because of all that has major stay power on anyone’s playlist.
In a way Phinehas has created one of the most original albums in the metalcore world these days. Not to beat a dead horse, but they really did keep it simple (by simple do simply mean no additional add-ins aside from ‘the real shit’ that makes metal, metal) and to honest, that’s a mindboggling feat it seems these days. So, yea, they actually did something pretty damn original. Isn’t it funny those little extras that used to make a band so unique, have become what one could consider cookie-cutter?
Off the album ‘The Fire Itself’, out 8.27 – http://phinehas.ffm.to/fireitselfStream the song – http://phinehas.ffm.to/fire__Bind myself to the pyre of hellI …
VOCALS / INSTRUMENTATION
Man, McCulloch can f%*&ing rip! The dude’s got the gutturals down pat. The high-pitched glass breakers on point. The mid-level screams meant to drive home that passionate passion damn well do deliver on said passion! One of the best examples is the title track. This is a song where you hear McCulloch’s full gamut of what this beast has to offer. I mean dang, if you didn’t feel it in your spine at the 0:42 mark when he screams ‘Go up in FLAAAAMMMEEESSS!’, or just before the lead-in to the second verse (WAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!), then you my friend are missing something. Yet just as much drive and force are felt during the choruses with the intense cleans that are matched up with the fiery instrumentals. It is on “The Storm In Me” though, where McCulloch shows us how much he can tug on those heartstrings with his heartfelt cleans. This dude has been hard at work expanding on both his scream and clean range and it has paid off in spades.
HOT DANG THE INSTRUMENTALS ON THIS ALBUM ARE PURE…FIRE! These boys sure now how to shred, wail, slam, tap, bounce, boom bang their way through a freakin’ metal song. Songs like “Eternally Apart”, “The Fire Itself”, “Dream Thief” and “Holy Coward” are absolute shred-zillas. Hyper-fast finger picking, slamming drums, and backbone twisting basslines all make up these terrific monsters. “Holy Coward” sounds as if the boys hopped on a jacked up, hemi-powered pickup truck, through their trucker hats on backwards, and swiftly laid down their Busch beers to play some good ‘ol southern metalcore, complete with a crazy, balls-to-the-wall opening solo that just kicks it up a Frank’s Hot Sauce dash or two million. Yet on songs like “Thorns” and “Severed By Self Betrayal” and “In The Night” the feel is a bit more straight forward core. Lacking zero intensity, but perhaps a bit more melodic overall. These boys came here to play, and you best believe they got the skills to prove it.
COMPOSITION / PRODUCTION
Everything about The Fire Itself feels as if it comes from a very dark place. Both lyrically and instrumentally the overall tone is bleak and haunting, yet through it all you can feel as if there actually is that metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a pursuit of cathartic release that is only fully achieved once you’ve reached the end of the album. It’s deeper meanings and sonic emotions are embedded deep into the roots of your soul and resonate long after your listen is through. These shouts…no SCREAMS to the effort and thoughtfulness that has been poured deep into every aspect of this album, cementing the fact that the boys in Phinehas have a talent that does and always will far surpass anyone’s expectations of what this band is capable of.
What I loved about the production on The Fire Itself is that it feels bloodily raw. You not only hear, but feel each pick scrape, each cymbal hit, each bass string plucked. The album has a very live feel to it, making it all that much more intense. And to boot, when you strive for that age-old true metalcore, this is exactly the type of production you’d seek out.
The first single off Phinehas’ fifth LP ‘The Fire Itself’, out August 27th – http://phinehas.ffm.to/nightPre-order/pre-save “The Fire Itself”, out 8.27 – htt…
I really have been longing for an album like this for some time. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’ve kinda sounded like a dick, picking apart other styles of metalcore when in fact I’m actually a fan of all of that as well. I just waned something a little purer, sonically speaking. I’m sure it’s been out there many times over, but if it has it either escaped my ears (not very likely) or for my own personal reasons, it just didn’t strike that particular chord (pun absolutely intended). The Fire Itself checked off the complete list of what I was craving and more. Heavy, melodic, yet with zero lack of passion and thoughtfulness. This album has everything a true metalcore album should. It has all the intensity of past records, yet with a sharpened focus. I’m sure this wasn’t easy for Sean McCulloch. Showcasing himself so openly, never mind having to face himself so intently. But what has been created is a brutally beautiful canvas of a man willing to bare his soul for the world to see. And to bare witness is something magnificent as we all can find a song or lyric to relate to, all the while backed by some of the most emotionally intense music heard in metalcore in some time.