Review Summary: A solid debut record that suffers from it's own tropes and production issues.
In 2013, Fit For A King re-recorded and re-released their debut album Descendants, which was solid enough for a new metalcore band at the time, but the redux showed significant improvement in not only the audio quality, but the overall album was much more polished and just sounded way better than before. That said, the album is very much of it’s time, and like many debut metalcore albums, hasn’t held up the greatest, but is a testament to how much better the band has gotten over time as the years go by. That said, amongst the positives, there are also many major flaws about the album as a whole, with the biggest being the very inconsistent tracklisting, mediocre production, and non-existent flow of the album, and leaving a few seconds in between each song and taking away from the listening experience as a whole. Every track ends abruptly and many of the songs contain annoyingly forced-sounding clean vocals and formulas that take away from and ruin what could be some of the best tracks on the album. Flaws aside it’s a decent record, but not one that contends by any means with any other record in the band’s discography.
The album opens up with “Ancient Waters”, a hard hitting opener that sets the tone for not only the album, but for most of the band’s discography as well, with an incredible vocal performance from Ryan Kirby and intense drumming from Jared Easterling. The song opens the album on a great note and is easily a highlight from the record.
Songs like “Buried” and “Messenger Messenger” introduce atmospheric elements into their sound (which later becomes a staple in the band’s discography), and have unique song structures compared to the rest of the album, combined with brutal, almost deathcore-like vocals from Kirby and lots of djenty guitars throughout the tracks, with the latter feeling very Meshuggah-influenced.
“Parallels” and “The Architect” are straight-forward metalcore tracks with guest features from Jeremy Gray and Matty Mullins (of Ivoryline and Memphis May Fire respectively). Both songs follow simple, overly-used formulas, and feature whiny clean vocals that almost ruin the songs for me. They’re weaker tracks from the album and are very repetitive musically and don’t really stand out. “Hollow Eyes” also suffers from these same flaws.
The title track is one of the heaviest moments on the album, essentially just being one big long breakdown, with growls and aggressive guitar riffs throughout. “The Roots Within” is another headbanging track with great riffs and another brutal vocal performance from Kirby. The chorus however feels very forced on the song and makes it seem very rushed and sandwiched in between breakdowns. On the opposite side of the spectrum, “Transcend” is a VERY different track than the rest of the album, and there still to this day, remains nothing like it in FFAK’s discography. An acoustic ballad, the song takes a needed change of pace and break from the heaviness and features a solid vocal performance from drummer Jared Easterling. While it feels a little cheesy and is a bit too repetitive, the song is a nice contrast, and contains orchestral elements with the acoustic instrumentation (which I am a complete sucker for).
Bringing back the heavy sound is “Unchanging”, which wastes NO time with one of the heaviest intro riffs on the album and has an insanely fast pace thanks to impressively speedy drumwork. The song is unrelenting and an absolute firecracker. It contains one of the heaviest breakdowns of the album, with a guest feature of the metronome… which comes off as both hilarious and really cool at the same time and adds to the chaos of the track. The song reaches its climax with a soaring sing-a-long chorus and is my favorite track off of the album.
“Keep Me Alive” is a very nu-metal inspired song with bounce riffs and a radio-friendly chorus. While not a bad song at all, it doesn’t feel like it fits the record and is very repetitive. It’s easily the weakest track on the album in my opinion and feels like a lackluster finish to the album.
Descendants is an okay album. It isn’t anything special, and oftentimes falls into the tropes of it’s own sound and many tracks feel like they were originally separate parts that were loosely tied together, and not like full songs that were put together in writing. The album has some great tracks amongst it’s flaws with “Unchanging” and “Messenger Messenger being standout tracks. What perhaps is the biggest issue with Descendants however, is that it doesn’t feel like an album, but rather a collection of disconnected songs by the same artist and plays like a playlist would, and less like an album as a whole. While unrelated when it comes to the songs themselves, it felt frustrating and does take away from the experience of listening to the album, as songs felt like they should have connected, even when they never did. Issues aside, the album highlights the insane amounts of potential FFAK had and would later end up capitalizing on with later records.
Best tracks: Unchanging, Messenger Messenger, Descendants
Worst tracks: Parallels, Keep Me Alive, Hollow Eyes