Review Summary: I'll give the world to you, and I mean it, but only if you give me the sky.
It's hardly a secret that Fightstar have always made an effort to distance themselves from Charlie Simpson's boyband beginnings, but Be Human
does far more than separate itself from Busted; on their third full-length release Fightstar finally sound like they're more concerned about standing out from their own back catalogue, and they manage it with astounding aplomb.
Where 2006's Grand Unification
paid lip-service to the hard in post-hardcore, three years and another album later the London four-piece are finally confident enough to apply that heavier influence without it sounding apologetic, but also find the restraint to craft a record that neither alienates their fanbase nor stagnates in the same manner as 2007's One Day Son, This Will All Be Yours
. Single Mercury Summer
has a familiar momentum but the crossfaded vocals and foot-stomping drums of its chorus are genuinely bouncy in a way Fightstar have never attempted before. It works incredibly well, and sunshine bursts out of every cymbal crash. It's track 8, though, that really showcases why Be Human is a cut above Fightstar's previous material; Give Me The Sky
hints at The Cure before bursting into ambience and soaring vocals. The wall of sound is joined by the orchestra, and...
Oh right, the orchestra. Fightstar have always seemed to hold aspirations of producing something epic and majestic; Grand Unification
in particular took itself very seriously but never had the maturity to pull it off. Here, though, it's used to great effect; War Machine
would hardly be out of place played behind a Lord Of The Rings battle scene, especially once you factor in the strings and choir which accompany its closing stages. Simpson's vocals just add to the tension, harbouring the same dramatic edge as always, and his coarse screams sound less forced, more cutting than ever before.
But all of this new-found depth is not at the expense of the pop moments that have always been a big part of Fightstar's sound; even tracks like Chemical Blood
have brilliant vocal melodies, but perhaps the album's most memorable passage is the chorus of The English Way
, which in all of its anthemic, fist-punching catchiness is bound to take radio stations completely by surprise. Of all the offerings here, it's probably the most accessible and the most reminiscent of the band's older material, but it still occupies a valid and breathtaking position in Be Human
's track listing.
On the other side of the spectrum, Damocles and Colours Bleed To Red
offer darker imagery, and the opening riff to the latter is particularly menacing, although its chorus sounds awkwardly optimistic. For the most part, though, the heavier moments dotted around the album sound comfortable, are driven by authoritative drums and surrounded by hooks and energetic melodies. There are angry moments to be found in Chemical Blood, too, but the brilliant thing about this record is that it all manages to flow despite demonstrating such varied components.
So with guitars amped up and an orchestra behind them, Fightstar craft a brilliant piece of rock music, and 'craft' is most definitely the right word. There is such care taken to build this album to its explosive and frequent climaxes that it is impossible to describe it in any other way. It's not a masterpiece, but it certainly suggests a band that is capable of one; melodic, diverse and delivered with conviction, Be Human
might just be the record that makes the world sit up and listen.