Fit For A King – “Dark Skies” (Sept 14, 2018)
Fit For A King has emerged as one of the most likeable of the new SolidState Records metalcore acts. Their 2014 album Slave To Nothing in particular made a massive impact and solidified them as a youngblood band to be reckoned with. With this band, the breakdowns have been consistently devastating, the emotional tone has always been gripping and relatable, and the vocal contrast has proven to be one of the best clean-harsh pairings in metalcore since Underoath. This formula has obviously been refined and honed on Dark Skies, and to great effect.
The album was preceded by a larger than usual army of singles – I count five in total. Five singles. Each of these stood strong on their own merit, especially The Price of Agony – a politically charged critique of current trends in public discourse – and When Everything Means Nothing, which deals with the harm caused to mental and social health by the often unrealistic portrayal of life through social media. While the material released in advance of the album was quite strong, you would also maybe think that releasing literally half of the album as singles would take away from the sense of discovery and excitement upon the arrival of the actual album. In this case, Fit For A King has delivered an album that is strong enough and diverse enough to stay intriguing all the way through in spite of the extensive previewing.
This strength is understandable for a few reasons: one, the emotional tone of this album is heartfelt, urgent, angsty, and intentionally dark enough to tap into fairly universal feelings of frustration and alienation, and two, the music has enough layers to it to keep the listener guessing. The band can shift between the absolutely bludgeoning sounds of a rager like Anthem of the Defeated, move on to plaintive melodies in Youth | Division, and then throw in a semi-screamed spoken word curveball part way through Shattered Glass. Here, Fit For A King is proving why metalcore as a subgenre has managed to survive and remain relevant well over ten years into it’s time as a musical movement: alongside labelmates Silent Planet and Norma Jean, Fit For A King has found a way to avoid repetition and clichés. Instead of re-treading genre tropes, the metalcore bands of this era are
One of the biggest pitfalls of Dark Skies is a corollary of one of its strengths – the tone. While one would logically expect darkness just based on the album’s title, the band sometimes over delivers on this theme, even to the extent of being corny at times. “If I don’t fix my life I could die tonight” is an angst-ridden line that might border on a little too “on the nose,” and definitely a bit overly literal. The more metaphorical lines on the record – “I will climb the tower of pain,” for example – go to the opposite extreme, being a little overly poetic, all of this adding up to melodrama. Is melodrama an overzealous criticism for a metalcore record? Maybe not ten years ago, no, but in a day when the bar for topical and emotional maturity is set by a band as serious and insightful as Silent Planet, the standard is quite high. Fit For A King has tended to stray from “on the nose” theology, couching their spirituality under a thick layer of angst. This works for them and gives them a wide appeal outside of the Christian music bubble, but it does mean that you’ll need to be willing to get in touch with your inner emo kid.
Also, this is really good but it’s not better than Slave To Nothing because of course it’s not. Slave To Nothing is undefeated.
(P.S. It’s kind of silly for me to review metal albums on here just given the nature of the Haystack’s demographic, a.k.a Seventh-day Adventists. Progressive and edgy as some of you are, we still don’t really have space in our culture to fit metalheads, at least not super passionate ones who keep up the look. I barely present as “metal,” and I scream in a band for goodness sake. Still, I figure that if we’re going to be reviewing Christian music releases, we should cover a broad swath of things, right? Like maybe some of you out there might be open enough to give some of this heavier stuff a chance. I feel like that’s a risk worth taking.)