I love it when a band comes back from the pit of mediocrity. Not that everything they did was mediocre, but there were moments of clouds and tarnish rather than polished silver. In Fear and Faith was the band that was destined to fall to the wayside and be forgotten for the wrong reasons – but not this time. They gathered their entire collective musical intellect and constructed a personal best, for themselves and for their fans. This new self-titled album is the melodic ass-kicking the hardcore scene needs to prove why records like Chiodos’ Bone Palace Ballet could effectively combine brutality with soaring string sections and complex piano intricacy – an achievement few bands have succeeded at.
Where Imperial fell immensely short, and where the Symphonies EP gave us a great idea of what the band was capable of, this record is their magnum opus: shining, bright, and nearly immaculate. Kicking off with one of the best songs to ever surface from under their name, “The Calm Before Reform” is a proverbial shockwave; perfectly intertwining Scott Barnes’ astonishing vocal capacity with his scream that offers both bark and bite, combined with the guest vocal of Dave Stephens from We Came as Romans, works incredibly well. The soaring melodies go as high as Felix Baumgartner on his 24-mile jump back to Earth, and pack multiple crowbars worth of force as well. From there you get hit with the one-two punch of back-to-back ball busters (“A Silent Drum,” “Look What You Made Me Do”) that really show Barnes’ screaming ability in full stride. Also note the increasing complexity of the guitar and bass riffage, because laced between all of the piano and symphonic elements, there are no awkward gaps of space; everything feels lush and full, ferocious drumming driving the ensemble like a percussion section should.
Fifth track “Soul Survivor” is the first slow jam on the record, and more of an epic power ballad at that. If know anything about music theory, you’ll recognize that in this song in particular (but in many others as well), IFAF like to flip back and forth between major and minor keys on the fly without wearing it out – another welcome quality. “A Creeping Dose” is another standout track, with such a mosh-worthy introduction and a catchy as fuck chorus. This song also highlights the squeaky clean and concise production of the record, no overpowering of any one element. It all fits together quite nicely. “Enigmatic” particularly stands out because it displays Ramin Niroomand’s incredible piano skills, and you’ll see that he is easily one of the best pianists in the scene altogether. He has a great knack for breaking up his melodies into strange portions but keeps them consistent, all the while consistently switching it back and forth between different styles of playing (but you already knew he had this kind of potential).
There seriously isn’t a bad track on this record; the following two songs “Dream Catcher” and “You Had Your Chance” are fun and moving pieces that both feature brutal breakdowns, which, because there isn’t a ridiculous overkill of them, makes them effective in both timing and force. “Last Man Stranded” is another gorgeous slow piece, and the strings are what make this piece drift like a boat with only one large sail to move it. Barnes’ vocal performance on this piece is also noteworthy – his range is stellar. I mean come on, seriously. Just listen and you’ll thank me later. Closer “Self-Fulfilling Prophecy” is the nail in the symphonic coffin, leading me to believe these gentlemen could very well be composers in front of an orchestra, a thought which rings true as a playful but eerie mallet melody brings the record to a close.
I’m not sure how many people saw this strong of a comeback from these gentlemen; I sure didn’t. I was always a fan, but didn’t know they had this kind of creativity in them. Regardless of your stance, you will ultimately finish this record with a feeling of satisfaction and surprise. One other thing to note: bands use the “self-titled” moniker on their records a lot, and to me it’s only done right when that particular record encompasses their best work and achievements to date; In Fear and Faith have accomplished that task to the tee. With this kind of staying power, these gentlemen get a standing ovation from me.