Texas metalcore quintet, Fit for a King, are a regular fixture on the US Billboard Top 200, having cracked the charts with 2013’s Creation/Destruction. 2020’s release of their sixth album, The Path, made headway in Germany and landed at number one on the US Christian Billboard. Perhaps now is the most difficult period of their career on the back of the devastation wreaked on the music industry by the global lockdowns. For vocalist, Ryan Kirby, it feels like a triumph against the odds to be here promoting the band’s latest record. He experienced the heartbreak of watching his wife cheat death when she suffered a stroke and looked like she might not make it. On top of that, Mr and Mrs Kirby adopted his wife’s nephew and niece around this time of upheaval. The Hell We Create tested his faith and left him wondering how ill prepared he was for such a distressing period of his life.
With this in mind, it’s surprising to hear the band start album number seven with the stadium metal dynamics of a “whoah-oh-oh” chant before they rip into the As I Lay Dying brutality like mourners questioning the wisdom of God’s plans. They waste no time serving up the essential ingredients of a modern metalcore song – the palm-muted triplets and double-kick drums scythe through the speakers like automated blade cutters; the chorus aims for a melodic contrast; the rage threatens to boil over into an outer body experience. You can hear an Architects influence as Kirby screams, “We’re dying casually/ Poisoned by apathy.” The breakdown at the end follows his warning that “No one is safe/ This is the hell we create.” See if you can avoid flinching when they power into ‘End (The Other Side)’ with a monstrous thrash of crushing guitars and murderous drumbeats. The chorus might be the usual underwhelming metalcore affair, but Kirby’s pain and anguish cut through the predictability with an air of desperation. “Now death is calling, it’s calling you/ But it’s not your time/ Will you stay with me?/ With darkness all around us, there’s nowhere left to hide,” he roars in frantic despair.
The problem with The Hell We Create is its unwillingness to commit to a core sound. ‘Falling Through the Sky’ cannot decide if it should be suitable for radio rock or not, but they soon close off this avenue with the introduction of a hyper-aggressive beatdown accented with spooky orchestral hits and buzzing synths. ‘Times Like This’ touches upon the same territory as Taking Back Sunday and struggles to persuade you of its merits despite the inclusion of a face-shredding At the Gates attack in the verse. It’s no coincidence that the two standout tracks are the most unforgiving. They also avoid the melodious chorus clichés that make modern metalcore so sterile. “Every day I’m on death row,” screams Kirby in the introduction to ‘Reaper’ with his shoulders hunched down on the mic and his foot ready to push on the monitor. This is how you take the finest attributes of hardcore and beef them up with the rhythmic precision of thrash metal. Slipknot’s extreme nu metal is the obvious inspiration here. One can only imagine the frenzy in the slam pit for this blast of relentless audio savagery. ‘Eyes Roll Back’ is just as violent and willing to ask the question what nu metal would sound like in the hands of Frontierer. Kirby’s agonising death growl in the breakdown will give you the impetus to rip your front door off its hinges with your bare hands.
Unfortunately, Fit for a King end the album with a medley of bland Linkin Park-esque rock numbers that push the choruses to the forefront at the expense of all other instruments. Why place these in consecutive order at track eight and track nine when the momentum of ‘Eyes Roll Back’ still has you in its internecine grasp? ‘What You Left Behind’ ends the performance with no idea if it should continue the melancholy radio rock or go down the muscular metal root. In the end, it does neither with much competency. Relying on heavy breakdowns to protect the metallic integrity of the music is a cliché we can do without.
The sincerity and emotion of this record are its greatest assets, and you don’t need to know the back story to feel the extraordinary frustration and despair in the heavier parts of these songs. But there must come a time when metalcore bands look to something other than radio rock and emo to balance the bone-crushing muscle at the heart of the music.
Release Date: 28/10/2022
Record Label: Solid State Records
Standout tracks: The Hell We Create; Reaper; Eyes Roll Back
Suggested Further Listening: Visitor – A Reason to Atone (2021), August Burns Red – Guardians (2020), Product of Hate – You Brought this War (2021)