Review Summary: In Fear and Faith's engine stalls.
San Diego sextet In Fear and Faith has advanced considerably since their debut EP "Voyage". On the back of the band's debut, post hardcore label Rise Records were quick to add the band to their roster. In Fear and Faith possess all the capabilities to become a modern day powerhouse in the fickle post hardcore scene. Most importantly, the band had developed a sound that was distinguishable from many of their rivals. Armed with dual vocalists the band has made its name through combining a symphonic element to its crunchy post hardcore base. This sound was expanded upon in the excellent debut album "Your World On Fire". New clean vocalist Scott Barnes was introduced to the line up and his soaring clean vocals helped elevate the band to the next level. Now, having completed their first European tour could they take the next step and emulate their previous efforts?
What is obvious immediately upon listen is a change in the bands mentality. Gone are the light hearted lyrics about pirates and in are the cliched preachings about struggle and responsibility. Besides this, there is an overload of neo classical interludes, found scattered in most tracks. Consequently, the sound is far less textured as the keys are no longer on the periphery. In an effort to crank up the "epic" feel In Fear and Faith have somehow managed to become completely predictable. Whats more, hilariously, the band line up does not include a keyboardist so the overemphasis on samples makes little sense. The slow piano build up in "Bought The Ticket, Took The Ride" is representative of the superficial recreations of the lighter in the air moments which should have died with 1980's power ballads. There are a number of similar moments to this present particularly during the middle of the album, none of which come across as anything heartfelt whatsoever. It is almost as if the band have discovered a formula with their songwriting that suits them and they religiously stick to it throughout.
Another area of deterioration is in the vocals. Scream vocalist Cody Anderson has never been blessed with a diverse range but he seems to have developed an even more limited range when recording this album. His flimsy mid range screams leave a lot to be desired. Scott Barnes also seems to have lost the plot, he gives the impression of someone trying too hard to diversify as he experiments more often with different vocal lines. He is of course still more than able to write good vocal hooks E.G. in "Bones" but many of them seem to be revamped and reused. When taking into account the repetitive style of their songwriting and the constant reworkings of the same hooks, the record wears a little thin towards the end.
Instrumentally, all aspects of "Imperial" are very carefully planned, the final product is indeed very deliberatly put together and the alternation in direction is clearly something that was decided. The leads don't differ too much from ground covered on In Fear and Faith's earlier material, they remain melodic whilst remaining nothing too technical. "Counselor" remains one of the only metalcore based songs on Imperial. It is however refreshing to see the guitarists moving away from the constant, mindless chugga chug rhythms and the multiples of single note breakdowns in favour of more experimental alternatives. This seems to have happened in conjunction with the more keyboard influenced direction.
In truth it is songs such as "Heavy Lies The Crown" where the band excel. Despite sounding remarkably similar to "Taste Of Regret" from "Your World On Fire" the classical piano underlay is tasteful and Barnes' emotionally charged wails are used in surroundings where they are more suited. If only In Fear and Faith were to realise their potential, there would be the possibility of capitalising on a little niche in post hardcore which is otherwise not fulfilled.
Heavy Lies The Crown