Review Summary: Despite lyrical shortcomings and some raw sounding clean vocals, In Fear and Faith's second release is a cohesive, well thought out mix of synthy post-hardcore and metalcore.
Few groups nowadays have managed to find their way through the mess of mediocracy that is modern metalcore, and have actually been able to create a unique sound for themselves. California metalcore/post-hardcore band, In Fear and Faith, manages to do this with their newest record, proving that there is still hope for the genre.
"Imperial" is IFAF's sophomore album released under Rise Records, and their lineup has remained consistent since their last release of "Your World on Fire" with Cody Anderson and Scott Barnes (who replaced ex-member Tyler "Telle" Smith now of The Word Alive), delivering the screamed and clean vocals, respectively. I will admit, I did find some of the clean vox a bit harsh and unrefined at times, but more often than not, Barnes did an above average job of providing a smooth contrast to the aggressive screams consisting throughout the album. The guitarwork, on behalf of Ramin Niroomand and Noah Slifka, gives the vocals an excellent background, with spacey, resonating grooves at times, and all the same, can provide a heavier feel for the songs. Tyler McElhaney on bass, and Mehdi Niroomand behind the kit, bring it all together, following the lead of the other band members and sometimes offering much more. Drummer Niroomand really shines at times, with impressive fills and, unlike most drummers of the genre, he knows how to utilize the double bass pedal without overdoing it - and I think that is the best quality of In Fear and Faith - they understand moderation. They use the breakdown like it should be: as an instrumental transition that is a nice break from the rest of the piece (see "I Know You Know").
Amongst all of the tight instrumentation and the strong vocal preformance, synth parts (delivered by Guitarist Ramin Niroomand) often replicating an orchestral arrangement like in the synth-driven chorus of "Bones", or a sweeping piano that is given the spotlight in the instrumental interlude "eleventwentyfour", are much of the reason for IFAF's unique sound.
The lyrics throughout the album seem to follow a similar theme, most of which revolve around moving on from past experiences, (in some songs they are a bit too obviously about breakups for my liking), but for the most part they are adequate, and I'll admit, I'm a sucker for the whole "one really epic line" of screamed vocals thing. They do it MANY times on the album (maybe 5?), and I can't deny the fact that I like it. For example, they open the song Counselor with "It's time to make your mark!" and in "Afterthought", right about halfway through the song, the band drops our and Sanders screams "Turn around, walk away, and never come back!" and the song then goes into a short yet effective two line breakdown. Moments like these sold me on the already impressive album, and made it all that much more memorable for me.
In Fear and Faith does a great job of portraying their emotion in this music, whether it be the hearty screams, or the synth-oriented clean sections, and they are developing a definitive sound for themselves. I'd say the only shortcoming of the album are a few weak tracks like "Once Is Enough", which has a pretty cheesy chorus, but still is not awful; also, I missed the guest appearanced that the band featured on YWOF (Craig Owens and Jeremy McKinnon). Nonetheless, Imperial is a great second release, by a great up-and-coming band.
Best tracks: "The Solitary Life", "Counselor", "Bones", "Let It Out", "Live, Love, Redeux"