Review Summary: Solid State newcomers My Heart to Fear breathe fresh air into the stale metalcore subgenre, utilizing great energy, breathtaking musicianship, and an innovative sound seen only in progressive groups.
My Heart to Fear is a five-piece metalcore group from Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The first time I had heard them, a local Christian youth-targeted television channel (whose only good program is music video mixes) was showing their breakthrough video "The Witching Hour." Especially amidst all the Demon Hunter and For Today, I thought these guys had a great potential, with breathtaking energy and amazing musicianship. But taken with a grain of salt, they didn't bring anything particularly new to the metal table. This continued with their debut EP with Solid State Records, "Lost Between Brilliance and Insanity", again with great musicianship and this time a more polished production. Enter "Algorithm", the second album released off of Solid State. I was expecting more of the same heavy energetic metalcore, but dreading potential stagnation that might occur, as it has with labelmates Inhale Exhale or MyChildren MyBride. But I was pleasantly surprised with the fresh dose of innovation that My Heart to Fear exhibits.
While being firmly rooted in metalcore, My Heart to Fear brings in influences of tech death, and progressive metal, as well as touches of deathcore, with surprisingly fresh results. While the breakdowns that crash through the headphones are not necessarily original, the melodies that these guys do are unique and have root in other forms of music. This versatility is used to inspire a range of emotion, from eeriness ("Angst" or "4th Dimension Opera House") to melancholy ("End Transmission" or "Pack Your Bags, We're Leaving"). Right off the back, with "Dust to Dust", we're introduced to an Eastern plucking above a crushing breakdown. "Angst" introduces a gothic atmosphere in terms of synth, and surprisingly also in guitar melodies, as well as classical piano. "The Sneaking Chair" is rhythmically and musically fairly jazzy, and the melodies are very quirky, layering clean vocals, bass, and guitar to a potpourri of unique sounds for the chorus. "Algorithm" incorporates a more atmospheric approach as well as an Arabic sound to the melodies. "The Witching Hour, Pt. II" revisits the gothic atmosphere as an effective sequel to their popular single, as well as some incredible bass noodling. "Wish You Were Here" almost has an 80's rock vibe at the introduction in the chord progression, as well as some all around noodling from the guitars and bass alike.
"Bottomed Out" features the vocalist of indie folk band Maitland, Josh Hines, and the song proves to be the most versatile, beginning with gothic synth over a breakdown, morphing into an almost mathcore section, and Hines makes an appearance at a beautiful section of walking bass and guitar finger-picking. The most interesting part is while singing, the vocalist kicks in with a deep growl initiating a breakdown, while Hines croons over a breakdown. While this sounds odd and out of place, it actually comes across as cohesive and powerful. It's almost like a Hearts & Hands song done well.
The individual musicianship of all members of My Heart to Fear is quite striking, especially for a metalcore band, and even more so for a Christian metalcore band. Guitarists Jay Graham and Dale Upright have great chemistry between their leads and rhythms, and they quirky melodies are nothing short of innovative. Drummer Luke Brady throws in unique rhythms and his fills often take center stage in songs such as "The Witching Hour, Pt. II" and "The Sneaking Chair". Vocalist Trevor Pool has a great voice, with a convicting roar not unlike Amarna Reign's Brad Kilburn (his pronunciation and the speed at which he can growl also brings to mind Phil Bozeman of Whitechapel), a higher maniacal screech, and very capable singing and accessible range, much like Chris Motionless of Motionless in White. Finally, I am incredibly happy to announce that bassist Taylor Pool is an incredible musician, noodling about and bringing a solid backbone to the group. His notes can be heard rumbling or noodling in the background, and his duals with the guitars or solos in songs such as "4th Dimension Opera House" or "Wish You Were Here" bring to mind Alex Vasquez of Abiotic or Chaoth of Unexpect. The synth, also to my surprise, is not used as a faulty foundation, familiar to bands such as Asking Alexandria or As Artifacts, but as a dynamic accent or climax, used most effectively in "414 Days" or "End Transmission".
Although these guys are great musicians, there is the inevitable problem, this being a metalcore album, of breakdowns. There are many of them, yes, and unfortunately they have a tendency to wear thin, especially with how powerful they can be. Thankfully, unlike The Crimson Armada or For Today, My Heart to Fear more than proves themselves as capable musicians. The issue becomes a matter of songwriting instead, which can be improved. While I believe these guys succeed more on "Algorithm" with experimentation than August Burns Red did on "Leveler", sometimes the odd noises come across harshly and out of place, in songs such as the title track and "Angst".
Lyrically, these guys don't reinvent the wheel, especially in terms of Christian orientation. Rather, they introduce interesting concepts to their convictions. For instance, they make the claim in "414 Days" that "We blame God. It's easier than swallowing the truth. We chase our dreams, but we still suffer." In "The Witching Hour" from way back, they introduced a horror story to convey the power of God, and in part 2 they continue that trend, creating horror imagery in the vein of "The Exorcist": "Here in this place is a man of eighteen out to prove God exists through demonic activity... His hands shiver and swell, as he sees a door across the hall open and close itself." Unfortunately, sometimes the lyrics fall into derivative Christian territory, in songs such as "Angst" ("For the evil one is disguised as an angel of light") and "The Sneaking Chair" ("So many voices telling me what to believe"). So the bottom line is that while they may not be the most innovative lyrics, they bring a fresh voice to Christian music.
In the end, the positives far outweigh the negatives. We're left with a breath of fresh air in the metalcore scene that may not revive the dying/dead, but refresh a stale soundscape. The musicianship on this disc is spellbinding as well as accessible. The vocals are powerful and the lyrics unique. While Solid State has had its fair share of hits and misses, My Heart to Fear brings a solid hit to their roster, and in the future I hope we'll be seeing more great musicianship, progression, and innovation from these guys.