Album Review :
Those Who Fear - Unholy Anger

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Artist: Those Who Fear
Album: Unholy Anger
Label: Facedown Records
Release Date: 02/5/2013
Reviewer: Lee Brown

Tracklisting: 

  1. Daggermouth
  2. (Un)holy Anger
  3. Holy Anger
  4. Leech Life
  5. Burn
  6. Day of Judgement
  7. My Domain
  8. Relentless
  9. Sowers of Discord
  10. Convictions
  11. Colossus

Those Who Fear got the attention of Facedown Records though sheer hard work. Bringing a relentless touring schedule and self-released EP effort, Facedown simply couldn’t resist what TWF had to offer. And what they have to offer is powerful stuff. Since the label lost one of their heaviest acts when In the Midst of Lions (R.I.P.) disbanded, there has been something of a hole in their catalogue. That is definitely no longer the case. Those Who Fear blast onto the scene with one of the heaviest albums of the year and a style that fans of In the Midst will easily relate to. Truth be told, TWF bring a sound that is something between In the Midst of Lions and Living Sacrifice, which is a potent blend.

Unholy Anger was produced by Josh Schroeder of Random Awesome Studios (A Plea for Purging, The Burial, Legend), and the influence shows. Vocally, TWF steer clear of metalcore, pig squealing, or anything of that nature and stick to Bruce Fitzhugh styled brutal vocals throughout. Musically, expect heavy guitars, only somewhat predictable breakdowns, and thrashing drums. All of that to say, Those Who Fear are a band to really watch out for.

With Unholy Anger, the band brings deeply theological fare to practical level. The dichotomy between “(Un)holy Anger” and “Holy Anger” for example shows how the band focuses their writing in on honoring God with their lives, but while living in a sinful world. While the band doesn’t fall in the “Spirit-filled” hardcore category, their lyrics are consistently faithful and theologically deep from start to finish.

The album begins with “Daggermouth,” which starts with screeching guitars turned immediately into blast beats. Right from the start, lyrically, the Living Sacrifice comparison starts to come into focus. Musically, this could also hold true, especially once the breakdown hits. This is not to say that the band feels unoriginal, however. While the comparisons are apt, Those Who Fear take the sound, break it, and re-mold it into something that is very much their own. As the title suggests, “Daggermouth” is about the sting of getting stabbed in the back, but being fed up with a righteous indignation towards the actions.

From there “(Un)holy Anger” progresses naturally into the problems we have in having wrath-filled anger towards the actions of people in this world. TWF put the imagery of the song through the lens of Jesus’s conversation with His Father before the crucifixion by stating, “Father, take this cup from me.” The pre-chorus/chorus section changes the vocal tempo up in a very satisfying manner that helps start to distinguish the band from their influences. The lines, “Why do I feel this way, every single day…” that follow are done in a meter and pace that very much feels like Brian “Head” Welch, but again, does not go so far as being unoriginal.

Immediately after “(Un)holy Anger” comes “Holy Anger.” While it’s really interesting to have these tracks back to back, I would have preferred that the track be used more as bookends on the album. If you read any of my reviews, you’ll know I’m all about the flow of the album and the message the album brings. While putting these two tracks back to back isn’t to the album’s overall detriment, I still feel it could have been utilized better.

Where “(Un)holy Anger” speaks (naturally) to the wrong type of anger, “Holy Anger” (again, naturally) speaks to the “holy discontent” (to steal Bill Hybels’ wording) that is very much a part of a righteous person’s life. While we are not called to “anger” (the Bible says, “Be angry, but do not sin”) we are called to have an unrest towards the sins and injustices of this world. “Holy Anger” is all about that. The two tracks bleed together in a way that (in spite of my comment above) takes a look at two different sides of the same topic. Musically and lyrically “Holy Anger” is solid and powerfully aggressive. The statement, “I can’t take it anymore, I have the right to be angry. I won’t take it anymore” is a perfect summary of this song. Interestingly, the vocal styles on this track follow where For Today has gone in the past to some small measure.

“Leech Life” begins with the words, “When you look in the mirror, do you see yourself or somebody else? Are you proud of what you’ve become?” The song addresses those who fake it through life and suck the life out of others. As with the rest of the album, “Leech Life” is non-stop aggression.

“Burn” is predictably about setting one’s life on fire for Christ. “We are called to be the light of the world, with a fire that burns within our hearts… Who can extinguish this flame?… We have chosen to rise.” “Burn” starts out with screeching guitars and wonderful heavy vocals. This is certainly the type of track that people will seriously get into live. It is also one of the highlight tracks on the album. While it doesn’t quite have an anthemic feel to it, this is certainly one of the key songs on the album that raises the banner and brutally challenges us to start that fire in our own lives.

“Burn” bleeds perfectly into “Day of Judgment.” From the title alone (just like “Burn”), it’s easy to see where the song is going. Musically, this song highlights the amazing talents of the band. The track starts with almost a full minute of musical assault before the lyrics begin. In the minute, the soundscape created becomes extremely immersive. The deep guitar notes with the ambient sounds of what could be the swarm of Revelation mixed with sirens produce (without any words at all) a deeply apocalyptic vibe. Though not the same sounds, it is very similar to how Metallica uses the intro to “One” to set a war-like scene before even speaking a word. In fact, “Day of Judgement” has few words. On the two-and-a-half minute song, only fifteen to thirty seconds contain any singing, at all. The execution behind this makes the song very potent.

“My Domain” continues the brutal musical assault without letting up. Following the eerie Revelation tone of “Day of Judgment,” “My Domain” speaks to assurance through Christ that we have nothing to fear in this world. The track references Psalm 23 and portions of Scripture that affirm that “we are more than conquerers through Christ,” “We can tread on serpents,” and “that the victory has already been won.” “My Domain” is a very refreshing reminder of the authority Christ has given for His children to overcome the world in a day and age when it seems the world is increasingly more evil and corrupt than ever before.

“Relentless” follows this theme to it’s logical conclusion by addressing the fact that people will hate (us/the band) for (our) strong convictions. In this, it continues the affirmation that we don’t live for this world or it’s fame. As with the rest of the album, the track is unrelenting (see what I did there) and aggressively powerful. “Sowers of Discord,” then, tackles the same topic, but from a different angle, focusing on the hypocrisy many “spew.”

“Convictions,” which is a topic screamed through on every track, speaks to the band’s… convictions. “This is my conviction. This is my life… This is my prize and who I want to be.” One of our writers here on IVM recently posted a thread on “Where have all the teachers gone,” speaking about how bands now hide their meanings behind “artistic statements” rather than preach theology boldly. Here is a band full of teachers. In this regard, they fill a gap that was created as For Today left Facedown for Razor and Tie. This is a band not afraid to stand up for their convictions.

“Colossus” closes the album out with an instrumental masterpiece. Like “Day of Judgment,” “Colossus” creates a mental image without even speaking a word. In my first listen to the track, I kept waiting for the vocals to enter, knowing that they had to be epic to match the music… but that never came. After the track was done, however, I saw that this was a wise choice. The song is perfect. The name of the track, when combined with the overwhelming feeling the drumming gives you of marching into battle paint a picture that words would have sullied. As I listened to the track, the culmination of TWF’s themes came together beautifully. The track’s tempo and beat makes you feel that you’ve just listened to your marching orders (the rest of the album) and are now stepping out onto the battlefield against an immeasurable enemy that stands no chance against the power of the holy army coming against it.

Overall: Those Who Fear bring a nonstop barrage of hardcore laced with bold lyrics and unrelenting conviction. Sonically, they are a potent blend of Living Sacrifice and For Today, with just a touch of In the Midst of Lions. Lyrically, Unholy Anger is an excursion into the depths of theology, yet is highly accessible. It’s easy to see why Facedown was eager to sign TWF… and I can’t wait to see where this band goes next.

RIYL: Living Sacrifice, Willows, In the Midst of Lions, For Today, Gideon

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