Band: Righteous Vendetta
Album: The Fire Inside
Release Date: 10.8.13
Reviewer: Lee Brown
- This Pain
- What You’ve Done
- With Love
- The Fire Inside
- So Long
- Inside My Eyes
- Fight Back
- Far Away
- Back to Life
- Losing Control
- For the Skeptic
- John the Revelator
There are just some moments and events in the history of humankind which serve as memorial stones from which we look back and see all of future history in light of said event. For many, the first such event they experienced was 9/11. The world was a different place for countless individuals after the towers fell. In the genre of metalcore music, August Burns Red recently set down a memorial stone challenge in their album Rescue and Restore. For metalcore as a genre, ABR has thrown down the gauntlet with a message to metalcore bands to either evolve or evaporate; not allowing bands in the genre to stay where they always have and utilizing the same genre tropes.
Thankfully, Wyoming based powerhouses Righteous Vendetta saw the shifting winds long before any gauntlets were thrown down. With their recent Ep. Vol 1, fans were surprised to find the band evolve away form metalcore and begin incorporating dominant power metal and rock elements into the mix. In the months since, fans have overwhelmingly come around and praised RV’s move as a welcomed evolution on their already great style. With The Fire Inside, fans are getting a more polished version of the tracks found on EP Vol. 1 and their full length Lawless along with some additional material that rounds out a full length record.
Because a large swath of the record is a rerelease of their EP released this February, I recommend you check out our official review of that album, as well. In light of this, I will just touch on some of the songs that were previously reviewed and focus the bulk of this review on the overall album and the specific songs not found on Vol. 1 with some notes on the tracks taken from Lawless.
The Fire Inside kicks off with “Defiance.” Now, I know I just said I wouldn’t spend much time rehashing what Ryann has already written about, but since “Defiance” sets the tone for much of the album, allow me a moment to embellish. As Ryann stated, this track seems to bring RV more in line with bands like TFK at times. This sound includes some amazing power chords, skillful riffing, and higher pitched vocal singing, as opposed to the traditional metalcore mix of gutturals and cleans. Aside from the fact that the drum intro is nearly identical to the one found in P.O.D.’s “Youth of the Nation,” “Defiance” remains a powerhouse track that sets the tone for a powerhouse record. While I see the link to TFK’s various stylings, I find this new mix on RV’s sound to be very in line with Iron Sharpens Iron’s Beware the Wolves EP and/or hinting at some Blessed by a Broken Heart. For the record, I also really enjoy it a ton.
Of this new sound, Hays has stated, “The new record is sure to be one of the biggest, hardest hitting mixes in the genre. It is heavy, catchy, melodic, and will have you singing every chorus after the first time you hear it.” And the new formatting/sound seems to be catching on as “This Pain” spent 15 weeks in the top 20 on Billboard’s Christian Rock chart and “The Fire Inside” broke the top 10 at Christian Rock and spent 10 weeks in the top 20. For my part, I absolutely agree with his self assessment. This album is catchy, infectious, raucous, and primed to hit the sweet spot for a generation of listeners.
So, for those that missed the transition point or are new to the band, the summary is that this is some great music that you need to hear. However, those that are faithful to Righteous Vendetta need to know that they may already have much of this album. Tracks featured originally on their EP include “Defiance,” “What You’ve Done,” “With Love,” “So Long,” “The Fire Inside,” and “Inside My Eyes.” Each has purportedly been remastered for this release and do seem to be the best versions of each song, respectively. In addition to this, a few songs are redone from their more distinctly metalcore album Lawless (the cover itself serves as a clear indicator of this). These tracks are “For the Skeptic,” “John the Revelator,” and “Reason.” Though these tracks do maintain their metalcore elements, each track has been redone with RV’s new style in mind. Lastly, “This Pain” was previously released as a single in 2012 and has also been redone. For a good comparison, the video directly below could help fans, as it is the “old” video set to the redone track.
Some will likely be discouraged that so much of the album is “recycled” material. However, I look at it this way: If you have a band that so drastically altars their sound – say “Black Album” Metallica switching to “Modern” Metallica – why not take this new soundscape and remake some great tunes. I would say that it’s like what Metallica did in making “Unforgiven II” or Symphony and Metallica, except my analogy breaks down on the fact that purists see “old” Metallica as the clearly greater “band,” whereas Righteous Vendetta is only getting better and bolder in their transition. In this, The Fire Inside is almost akin to a greatest hits album, except the band didn’t simply repackage “old” material with no further thought. The new mixes, even where they are strikingly similar, are better overall cuts than their predecessors. This is where it comes back to the first paragraph comparison to ABR’s open challenge to metalcore as a genre. RV did the right thing in seeing the winds of change and getting out ahead of them. The Fire Inside provides fans with a compendium album that is Righteous Vendetta’s own memorial stone thrown down to point the direction the band is heading henceforth.
The remaining tracks that feature all new material are “Fight Back,” “Far Away,” “Back to Life,” and “Losing Control.” Each has a forward-thinking premise and and anthemic feel. As with the “recycled” tracks, each crashes in with high levels of skilled musicianship and each points ahead while clearly drawing the listener into what’s being offered. “Fight Back” in particular stands out from this particular set of newer tracks. Mixing some guttural vocals with more straight up rock anthemic singing the chorus “Fight back, burn it up, are you down with that? Watch yourself we’re coming back” serves as a great fist-in-the-air power song. By the time the breakdown (which itself is a mix of metalcore with a hint of power-rock) hits, you’ll be stomping your feet and pumping your fist. The aforementioned “Defiance” and “Fight Back” will certainly make great live songs and are both primed to stick in your head for a long time coming.
“Far Away” continues this anthemic charge, though it gets a little more power-metal focus in its execution. The lyrics such as, “I’ll never be the same when you’re so far away…” are vague enough that the listener could read in their own “you,” but are pointed enough to hint at someOne greater. Bookending the message of “Far Away” is “Back to Life,” which begins with a punk-infused “core” opening set against some higher toned guitar work and brings a message of redemption. Once more we are treated with an upbeat and uplifting track that will easily have you singing along in mere moments.
While these tracks all follow one another, “Losing Control” sits after the Lawless re-issues and closes out the album. Blending punk styled vocals with power rock, “Losing Control” falls into that TFK or maybe even We as Human/Skillet sound, but with some lightly guttural vocals and heavier riffs thrown in to slant it to the heavier side of the scales subtly.
Musicianship: In terms of the album as a whole, each track boasts some impressive musicianship and most are dangerously infectious. As stated, the experimentation and mixing of metalcore, power metal, and rock elements really brings a strong and healthy blend of flavors. Nothing seems out of place, musically, and the tracks as a whole really complement one another. Due to the re-used tracks, the overall package doesn’t feel like it resounds with a single central theme or message, but that’s okay. As a collection of tracks, the album still works marvelously well.
Lyrics: The Fire Inside will never be compared on a lyrical scale with the depth found on a Blindside or Project 86 album, but neither are they vapid or ephemeral. In most cases, the lyrics are vague enough to be accessible, and yet passionate enough to point the listener in the right direction. By the very nature of several tracks being anthems, some places are pointedly accessible and designed to be chanted. Themes recurring on the album include betrayal, spiritual triumph, and a solid core of passionate love for God.
Lasting Value: Some will see that much of this album has been previously released and dismiss it. That would be a mistake. Even where songs have recently been released, these versions are just a bit more polished. On a more personal note, as a reviewer who gets several albums thrown at him at a time, it is rare that I return to a large amount of albums after I’ve reviewed them. With Righteous Vendetta I was given Vol. 1 in preparation for my interview with the band, even though I wasn’t reviewing the album, it somehow made it into rotation. That should speak volumes about the lasting value of these songs. Even though my time is through with this grouping of songs, I fully expect to be listening to them again soon. That said, I’ll also be looking with anticipation to RV’s next full length album.
Overall: Wyoming based rockers Righteous Vendetta were wise in seeing a shift in the winds of metalcore and getting ahead of the curve. Not only has their move to a more mixed sound brought fresh life into their music, it gives other acts an example of how to breathe fresh fire into their sound. Although The Fire Inside contains mostly tracks that have been (even recently) released, they are typically the best versions of each song available and, as a whole, the album proves to be the best place for any newcomer to begin. Those who already have all three previous efforts may choose to buy the new tracks individually (they’re worth it), but even the enthusiast wouldn’t be doing themselves a disservice for going all in, if for nothing else than to have the improved recordings.
Righteous Vendetta’s stock is rising fast and with The Fire Inside it will only grow stronger. Anyone looking for a fresh sound, high-energy guitar and drum work, and passionate lyrics should start here. And I say this without any bias coming from the band and I’s mutual love for Wyoming.
*Note: This Spotify stream is of the EP Vol.1, released in February of this year. It should give you a good idea of what to expect on the full length (each track is represented on the new album) as the tweaks done are mostly just slight improvements here and there and nothing like a total overhaul (they didn’t really need overhauled, anyway). Enjoy.