Review Summary: He lives— he lives among us.
It hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for Dallas-based kings of christian metalcore Fit For A King since their inception in 2007. Having cycled through over a dozen members in that time, and having shifted musical direction several times, the crew is back with Deathgrip, their fourth studio album. Does this mix of new-and-old guard find the band still holding their competitors in a stranglehold or merely treading water in an over-saturated metalcore landscape?
For starters, Deathgrip mostly pretends like the last record, Slaves To Nothing -a much more melodic and groove-laden record- didn’t happen. Instead, the band picks up where Creation/Destruction left off and propels their harsh/melodic sides to new extremes. There is an even heavier reliance on huge vocal hooks than before throughout Deathgrip, and the songs live and die by them; When they work, they send tracks like Cold Room and We Are All Lost sailing into the stratosphere, but occasionally they drag an otherwise solid song like Dead Memory into the dumps when Ryan plaintively cries dull lyricisms like “would you even care if my heart stopped beating?” repeatedly. Lead single Pissed Off is short and to-the-point, and broadcasts its message clearly with big dumb riffs and down-tuned breakdowns, but it only scratches the surface of what Fit For A King is capable of these days.
While the first half of Deathgrip is a little safe and hit-and-miss, the gloves come off during the second half with a string of dynamic tracks showcasing the band firing on all cylinders. Shadows & Echoes and We Are All Lost feature very polished and well-developed hooks that will quickly worm their way into your psyche, while Stacking Bodies ratchets up the heaviness to absurd proportions with layered breakdowns that come crashing down like faulty machinery that jerks and stutters to the finish line. But the true gem of the album is the meticulous title-track; Ryan delivers the verses in a hushed lethargic manner, sounding like a man beaten and barely breathing while the chorus smoothly juxtaposes erratic explosions of anger with soaring, haunted singing lines that coalesce in a truly arresting way. It’s the most vibrant and infectious track of the bunch, oozing a sheer desperation and finality that is hard to shake afterwards.
Time has not slowed down Fit For A King, nor has a shifting line-up. They’re not reinventing the wheel here, but they’re not trying to, instead they are earnestly fine-tuning and finding ways to inject mass-appeal elements elegantly into their music without completely abandoning their sound like many of their peers who are struggling to remain relevant have. There’s no whiff of identity crisis here, no shoe-horned electronica. Fit For A King know exactly who they are and what they do best and leave the clumsy genre-gymnastics to other acts; Here they are feeding off their own roots and sounding hungry and revitalized while doing so.