Review Summary: UK's own Fed to the Ocean delivers a passionate djent-tinged metalcore/hardcore debut, but fails to deliver on the potential they showed, due to a generally misguided sense of direction as well as a capable but lethargic vocal performance.
Taking their namesake from a song off of The Ghost Of A Thousand's eponymous album, "This Is Where The Fight Begins", Manchester/North Wales group Fed To The Ocean started off releasing a single in 2012 entitled "Never Fade," as well as its well-received music video. This single combined a metalcore approach with a hardcore vocal and straight-edge attitude, complete with a brisk djenty tone to the guitars and a strong, almost ambient, melodic approach, as well as a complimentary vocalist. This being their only music, I began following this five-piece over Facebook, and soon after, they announced the release of their new album, "Keep On", in late July. I was stoked, and hoped their new album would build off of the potential of their single. To make a long story short, it didn't.
Don't get me wrong, Fed to the Ocean is very passionate about their music, evident in opener "1984," complete with "blegh!" and a quick pace. But unfortunately, the melody of "Never Fade" is placed in the background and replaced with the djunz of their lower tuned guitars, as "1984" and "InDependent" flood the listener's ears with basically just heavy breakdowns. Thankfully, "Un-Noticed" and "Human Condition" prove to hint the potential without actually fulfilling it, focusing more on the melody but failing to focus completely on said melody. The new rendition of "Never Fade", in comparison to the old version, mostly fails in that the vocals are too varied to give focus to the direction of the song, as well as the production of the rhythm emphasized while the melody (taking center-stage in the older version) is put in the background. This degrades the song basically into a pretty chugfest. "Part II" and "500 Roads" both end up being rays of light in regards to signs of potential as well as initially generic breakdown songs, contrasting both good and bad.
While I understand that the djent movement has exploded way more than necessary, it is refreshing in context when FTTO uses a djenty versus djunzy approach (say, for comparison, Monuments' "Gnosis" versus Structures' "Divided By"), as it point towards the brisk pace that made their first single so effective. Thus, the second halves of "Part II" and "500 Roads", as well as the majority of the final title track, end up being the highlights of the album, complete with that djenty approach, as well as the focus on melody. Through the crisp riffs, we can also hear the melody as well as the ambient and passionate chord progressions. The final song, the title track, again shows that potential as well (with a powerful dueling breakdown at the end), but is weighed down by subpar vocals.
Speaking of vocals, new vocalist Bradley Allen doesn't have a bad range or voice per se, but the issue with it is parallel to the reason why Cody Anderson formerly of In Fear and Faith was one of the reasons why the California outfit performed poorly in their sophomore effort, "Imperial": lethargy. Allen's growls and shouts are varied and have good range, but often come across as sloppy and incoherent. His clean vocals are nothing of special mention, but they are very capable and shine particularly in the harmonies of "Part II". The tracks "InDependent" and "Keep On" feature guest vocalists, but due to Allen's inconsistency, it's hard to tell where they show up. If he focused on a more consistent vocal approach, I believe the overall sound would be greatly complimented.
Basically, the main reason this album does not live up to its potential is the production and the focus on the rhythm rather than melody, the latter being what set this group apart from the others, and thus the vocal performance would not be that big of an issue. Every member of this group is clearly skilled, as guitarists Tino Fiata and Connor Reilly accomplish such melodic sustenance and unique transitions ("500 Roads") as well as excellent rhythms, bassist Shayne Smith has moments of solo rumbling, and drummer Adam Henson has unique rhythms and fills as well as impressive double bass. It's clear that these guys are a good group of musicians with a passion for the music they make.
To their credit, I am fairly impressed with their lyrical approach. Although nothing particularly groundbreaking or expertly poetic, the album holds true to the message for their listeners to, as their title suggests, "keep on." Although it may come across as cheesy or overemotional at times, such as in "InDependent" ("Everything that I have ever done for you was never enough, it was never enough") or "1984" ("You're ruining this world, vowed never to return to this life"). But positive examples of honesty and outreach include "Human Condition" ("I know I've tried a thousand times to make this right, but now it's clear to me that this world is fading"), "Never Fade" ("Your sticks and stones broke my bones, a broken window into a broken home... I won't surrender, always loved but never remembered... Every step I take, I'm hiding my head in shame. The silence keeps me on my toes, the shadows call me home"), "Part II" ("I miss you with all my heart, I wish you were back here. The family has not been the same without you"), and "Keep On" ("I'm proud to see what I have overcome: the broken promises, the people who have gone"). This album is packed with lyrical persistence messages, and it shows that they have a heart for encouraging their listeners.
Overall, although I believe Fed To The Ocean's debut is a bit of a downer, it still holds potential, and perhaps through honing and more musical focus in the future, they may be able to release an album to awaken a stale and dying genre. Perhaps because of finding these guys one day on Youtube before "Keep On" was released or even announced, I have a special place in my heart for Fed To The Ocean, and thus I still see their aforesaid potential, and look forward to what lies in store for them in the future.