Review Summary: Waiting at the crossroads of maturation yet as aggressive as ever.
When I first discovered Those Who Fear I was worried and skeptical they would be yet another mid-level band in the same bloodline as many of their labelmates. Granted, that's pretty much exactly what the band is on the surface: a Gideon and Call To Preserve brother band formed on the blending of metalcore and hardcore hostility. Perhaps what Those Who Fear bring to the table is a reiteration of this genre mixture in their own rancourous voice, delivered with brute force, not unlike the technical quirks that Gideon has brought to the forefront of Facedown records.
With their new record, State of Mind, Those Who Fear offer a vicious addition to their growing discography, but with an overrippened continuation demonstrated from previous releases. That being said, State of Mind shows a slight sign of the band's maturation, and maybe they are fine with just doing what they've been doing--because they certainly haven't been doing it poorly. Like on their prior two full-lengths, they also employ additional vocal guests, Garrett Russell (Silent Planet) and Tommy Green (Sleeping Giant); and just like prior releases, these are some of the strongest tracks on the record, supplying a change of pace in a record that really needs it. Vocalist John Healy drives the band's chunky and aggressive tonality the same way he's done before: his vocals haven't changed much at all. Healy tends to remain in his one solitary range: low gutturals. However overused they might seem (Unholy Anger might be a better example of this stagnation), Healy excels greatly with what he's most comfortable with. And with a record that revolves around the mentality of man and the duality of change in spite of one's darkest and most unreliable thoughts, Those Who Fear string together a rather short but punching record.
Much like how Gideon structures their songs with scattered quirks and nuances for variation, Those Who Fear does the same throughout State of Mind. Although this record sports their djentiest guitar tone so far, it works well with the downtempo prowess the band is veering towards. You can hear it quite well in the clich├ęd opening instrumental, "State of Mind," or later on "Death of Free Thought." Incidentally, the album immediately makes up for it with "Driven," in which Garrett Russell stings us with his piercing screams; however, his visit seems rather short lived. "Better Off" continues the downtempo aggression with guitar panning and dissonance similar to how Gideon utilized on Calloused. Given that both bands share so many similarities, it worries me that Those Who Fear took possibly too much influence from their counterparts. In turn, the album suffers from an overproduced sound that contrasts the raw flare that made Unholy Anger and Death Sentence so enjoyable. State of Mind also showcases the first moment the band has included clean vocals ("Lost"), and stands out like a sore harbinger of what might be to come. Has the heaviness been lost because of this though? Heavens no. The band's energy remains just as strong as ever, and it just inspires me to want to experience their live performance in comparison. Would I crowd-kill for Jesus if I saw Those Who Fear live? Of course.
Perhaps where State of Mind kindles its strengths the most is in its hardcore riffs that keep Those Who Fear from being just another metalcore group. Is the band trying to be the most technically proficient? Not really, because they strive on being themselves (for the most part) and subduing listeners with the purposeful meaning and foundation behind the band. That being said, although State of Mind is Those Who Fear's shortest full-length album to date, I emphasize with the change they've set forth in this record, albeit the overall lyrical concepts could have been fleshed out so much more. For what it's worth, the band has always put out fun and hard-hitting music, ruthless and pungent to the core. In the end, State of Mind proves the band desires for some wiggle room to expound upon in the future, and hopefully change will come for the better. Those Who Fear are still 100% Those Who Fear, however you look at it.