Spiritbox – The Fear of Fear (Pale Chord Musc/Rise Records)Monday, 6th November 2023
A band that has seen nothing short of a meteoric rise in the last few years, Spiritbox has also been consistently releasing new content each year even if it’s just in the form of an EP. Following up the ‘worthy of the hype’ full-length Eternal Blue was not going to be easy, but the band admirably tried to get some experimentation out there in the 3-song Rotoscope EP last year. Given the band’s upward trajectory, a jettisoning of the heavier aspects of their sound wouldn’t necessarily be out of the question, but new EP The Fear of Fear seems to signify that the band can dig their nails deeper into the modern mix of atmosphere, metalcore, and rock, and keep it sounding appealing to a wide audience without reducing any of their bark.
Opening up the release with the subtlety of a bulldozer is the recent single “Cellar Door.” Frantic, claustrophobic riffs full of groove push the song full-throttle, and it’s interesting to hear the contrast between the murky, dark mood of the track coinciding with the visceral riffing and Courtney LaPlante’s snarls. “Jaded” sees the group doing a heavy tonal shift towards much more melody, but with the emphasis on the atmosphere and switching between serene vocals from LaPlante at the chorus and more chug-friendly aggression it creates an intriguing dynamic that feeds both sides of the equation – it’s probably the highlight of the six songs. That said, “Too Close/Too Late” gives it a run for it’s money, as Spiritbox seems to know exactly how to frame a song to operate in that melodic space that channels an absurd amount of catchiness and melodies, but feeds in enough groove that you don’t feel slanted by the more pop-driven elements. But just in case you are one of those people that feel more at home when the band pulls no punches when it comes to heaviness, “Angel Eyes” was definitely written with you in mind. It sits in that same sonic space as their abrasive “Holy Roller,” going for intensity and groove above all, which should leave fans thrilled. “The Void” and “Ultraviolet” then work back towards the melodic side, with the latter all but relishing in the electronic rock domain, with playful and ethereal sounds propelling LaPlante into soaring territory when needed.
Well-earned praise continues to come to Spiritbox, and The Fear of Fear sits as another musical high point. Their ability to pull off modern, groovy metal and pepper it with rock/pop and electronic elements into a myriad of expressions and emotions is what makes them a compelling act to observe. While there will always be naysayers as an act gains a larger following outside, simple fact is that their scorching blend of grooves and melodies are bound to ignite a passion for many who might not otherwise find a metallic entryway. Not to mention their execution of this particular niche is practically unrivaled in the scene currently.