Review Summary: Another false American prophet
The Fever ***ing suck, and they suck in an extremely disappointing and frustrating way. Considering the pedigree of the members involved, this project should work. On paper, Jason Butler fronting a band consisting of the Chariot’s guitarist and Night Verses drummer sounds like it should be outstanding, but by any means it is not. With each passing song the Fever have proven themselves to be a disaster of a band, aiming to split the difference between Rage Against the Machine and Hybrid Theory era Linkin Park but instead sounding like a manufactured board room interpretation of both dumbed down and overpolished for the lowest common denominator. This all culminated in their horrendous debut EP Made an America, a collection of 7 borderline unlistenable rap rock fusions that were both grating and mind numbingly generic, topped off with John Feldman’s signature “let’s throw a bunch of effects on here to hide the half baked songwriting” production. The lyrics certainly didn’t help, as they’re mostly faux rebellion bull*** that’s all style over substance. But there were glimpses. On the rare occasion Jason actually screamed, it showed that somewhere under the layers of gloss the Jason Butler of Fake History was still somewhere in there, helped by the outstanding Pressure Cracks EP that Butler fronted months later. And Aric Improta, who didn’t even play on the ***ing EP, is an incredible drummer. Maybe as the Fever is becoming more and more of a full time gig (and they actually have their drummer in the studio with them), they could finally utilize their talents and turn it into something listenable.
That didn’t happen. While STRENGTH IN NUMB333RS is admittedly a step up from their previous work, it’s still an over produced mess of horrendous rapping and pandering lyrics. To the Fever’s credit, they do a few (very few) things right here. The songs feel more fleshed out and complete than before, the choruses are (slightly) stronger, and Butler is still a (mostly) phenomenal frontman. The moments where he has room to let loose, notably in the bridge and beginning of “BURN IT”, do amp up the intensity in a handful of otherwise generic songwriting. And where most of the choruses on Made an America basically consisted of Butler repeating the same thing over and over again (“We’re Coming In” has easily one of the worst hooks I’ve heard in recent memory), here the band (or Feldman you really can’t tell who writes what on the albums he produces) all feel like at least a little bit of thought went into them. Songs like “OUT OF CONTROL/3”, “ANIMAL”, and the aforementioned “BURN IT” bear hooks that are certainly listenable, and almost good until you realize “BURN IT” and “ANIMAL” have almost the same exact ***ing chorus. The problem is they’re still all incredibly disposable and are not enough to make up for all the other failings throughout the album.
And on that note, let’s get to arguably the most glaring issue with this band. Jason Butler is a terrible rapper, which is a huge problem as the only vocalist in a rap rock band. He essentially takes the (thankfully) small near rapping parts of The Blackest Beautiful and makes a whole ***ing album around it. Butler’s shrill cadence gets very very hard to listen to in a matter of seconds, so you can only imagine how it sounds throughout it’s 40 minute runtime. To his credit he does on some songs occasionally try to differentiate from this, but that credit is lost once you actually hear them. In fact, one some instances such as the closer “COUP D’ETALK” you get to hear Butler attempt to ape the Migos triplet flow, and it’s about as annoying as it sounds.
The most frustrating attempt is “INGLEWOOD/3”, the band’s failed attempt at a slow song with an emotional bent. It’s so close to being an okay song, as lyrically it’s one of the few moments where it feels like there’s finally weight and substance behind all the claims of revolution. Instead of being vague the way literally the entire rest of the album is, Butler finally goes inward and describes the specific struggles and prejudice he faced growing up. He comes the closest he ever has to getting his message by using detailed examples of his brother coming home bloodied up by the cops or his dad walking out on him at 7 years old. But that’s not enough to make up for poor execution, as the song is dangerously close in sound to all the horrible ballads on Eminem’s Revival. The chorus is maybe the cheapest on the entire album, and the verses he tries to emulate the “I’m really angry but I’m super reflective” restrained garbage Eminem has centered every slow song around. It also doesn’t help that while the overall intentions of the lyrics are commendable, there are plenty of baffling lyrical choices and laughable moments in his delivery that kneecap the emotional impact he’s trying to convey (so a pretty spot on Eminem impression in that respect). All the good intentions in the world wouldn’t be enough to make up for lyrics such as “when y’all was learning violin, I was learning violence”, or following “in the alley where they tried to shoot my moms” with an over-emphasized high pitched “damn” immediately following it.
None of this record is helped by John Feldman’s production, who through pretty much everything he’s done this decade has proven himself unfit to walk into a record studio ever again. This album has plenty of his production tropes, and along with The Used’s Imaginary Enemy shows his extreme inability to produce anything with a more aggressive focus. The distortion effects he places on Butler clashes greatly with the very obvious autotune put on his voice, and the sterilized guitar tones and drums sound so cheap and artificial that they don’t bring any impact at all, even when the writing clearly intended it to. Feldman also clearly didn’t leave his blink-182 contributions at the door, because a handful of these songs use “woah-ohs” as filler in place of actual lyrics. Worst of all is the far too often baffling uses of pitch shifting on the vocals, such as the ear piercing beginning of “ONE OF US”.
But Feldman is just drilling the final nail into the coffin, as even a good producer wouldn’t be able to save this sinking ship because none of this album works. The Fever were doomed once they decided to settle in a sound their own vocalist can’t even ***ing pull off, and their empty pandering clamoring to be part of a greater revolution just makes it all the more grating. As the embarrassing intro track shows, the Fever claim to be a revolution. While a riot chants “333”, a reporter claims they’re “here in the name of progress for all people”, and that’s all well and good. But when you try to back that up with this sterile, watered down, hollow, and lowest common denominator ***, then to quote Butler himself, you’re “another false American prophet”. Listen to Fake History instead.