Review Summary: A very pleasant surprise
I stumbled onto In Fear And Faith a little over a year ago, and was initially pleased with what I heard. 'Your World On Fire' was a very enjoyable Post-Hardcore record, featuring solid screams, great cleans, and a very interesting piano element that made many songs feel much more fun than they seemed to have any right to be. And then the band released 'Imperial'... It was all around painfully mediocre, the fun and the passion that the previous record had was nowhere to be found. Following that colossal screw up, harsh vocalist Cody Anderson left the band, leaving all of the vocal duties to clean vocalist Scott Barnes.
This could have gone horribly, they could have released another Imperial, hell, they could have gotten worse... But no, not only did the band get back on track, they've released their best album to date.
The guitar work on this album is great, but not all that flashy or standout. I don't say this because the playing is lackluster, the players actually do exactly what they need to do to make the rest of the elements on this album work. It sounds like there's a whole damn orchestra on this album. Piano/keyboard, violins, and plenty of other elements join the sound as well. Every song is enhanced by one of these additions, if not all of them. They were smart about the use of these elements, they never push them into any of the songs simply for the sake of variation, and it never sounds overcrowded. It's all used damn near perfectly, adding an outstanding amount of atmosphere and emotion to each song. What the guitarists do so well is make sure there's room for all this, they get to throw down some nice leads from time to time and their playing never feels dull, but there's really no room for them to go wild.
The drummer's material is a bit more noticeable and varied than the guitar work, because he actually has room to be a little more flashy. His playing isn't amazing or over the top, but he gets his fair share of entertaining beats and fills. While it isn't immediately attention grabbing, his performance is very solid.
All of these factors are beautiful and work well from a purely instrumental standpoint, but what they do best is enhance the highlight of this album, the vocals. Scott Barnes has always struck me as a very capable singer, but as the band's new front-man he really has a chance to shine on this release, and he doesn't disappoint. His cleans are beautiful. His soaring melodies and incredibly catchy hooks and choruses nearly dominate the album. He sings exclusively in a high pitch, but avoids the mistake of sounding whiny or underwhelming. His voice has some bite, and it's because of that his voice is always welcome, it never becomes grating or obnoxious. There's obvious passion in the words he sings and in the way he delivers them. Some of the lyrics are great, and some are a bit on the cheesy side, but they're all sung so well it's hard to be annoyed by even the lesser ones. Though the cleans are the primary vocal source, there are some harsh vocals on here. Scott does a good job, his screams have nothing on his cleans, but they fit the band's sound well and actually sound better than the screams previously provided by Cody.
There's good song variation here, and very little filler. The intro track could be cut out, and the purely piano track 'Enigmatic' could certainly be a little shorter, but every other song is very strong. Many of the tracks do tend to be a little on the repetitive side. Sometimes you'll hear the chorus of a song as many as 4 times, but as I mentioned before, the choruses are fantastic, so having to hear them multiple times isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The production is outstanding, there are so many little touches that could have been lost in the mix, but none were. Though it may take several listens to catch and appreciate every sound that's packed into these songs, the point is that it's all clear enough for you to be able to do so.
This album's only glaring flaw is simply that it is what it is... It's a Post-Hardcore album. No disrespect to the genre intended, it's just that there's a ton of albums that have a lot in common with this one floating around out there. If you take the piano, the violins, and every other addition to the band's core sound out of the mix, it all feels a little too familiar. The additions make this album unique, but all in all it still isn't a groundbreaking release by any means. This isn't a factor that should hurt anyone's listening experience. This is fantastic, just don't expect a genre-reinventing mind-blowing masterpiece. Expect a very fun, very well executed Post-Hardcore record, and you should be pleased with what you hear.