Fear Of Men's acclaimed 2014 debut, Loom, was bristling with a quiet anger that seemed ready to burst at nearly any moment. But it never did. Instead, the ire of guitarist and vocalist Jessica Weiss sat simmering beneath the dreamy instrumentation. The jangling guitars wouldn't have seemed out of place on any number of dream pop albums, but Loom's real power came from coupling that airy instrumentation with the cutting and occasionally disconcerting lyrics. With their second full-length, Fall Forever, Fear Of Men have shifted gears and have crafted something far more outwardly menacing, while taking special care to never abandon their romantic roots.

"I've done things that mark me out," Weiss sings on 'Undine,' a brooding track that continues the band's fascination with all things aquatic. The track features a lush and textured mix of moody guitars, melancholy strings and pulsing drums from Michael Miles. The ethereal, textured atmospheres of this record are noticeable from the outset. Daniel Falvey's long been known as the band's instrumental mastermind and his skills seem to have grown exponentially since the group's last release. Meanwhile, the way Weiss' voice negotiates these spacious songs is not unlike that of experimental pop singer GABI. While Weiss' lovely voice is not quite capable of GABI's vocal acrobatics, she is capable of using her voice to create new, palpable realms much like the Brooklyn-based singer can.

On the instrumental front, it is hard not to draw comparisons between Fear Of Men and a group such as The xx. Perhaps this is a simple line to draw as the latter is so well known for their slow-tempo, sleekly crafted pop songs, but it is hard to not hear shades of their instrumental influence on this record. It is an influence that works to full effect as it does make for some stunning moments. The dark and enveloping nature of the record is perhaps best exemplified by the appropriately-titled 'Ruins'. A processed drum mimics the sound of a creaking door opening as slowly as possible as Weiss sings with caution, "I could open up to you." The song creeps along through gloom and doom before the track's skittering drums simply fall off the table and things go quiet. This is rather typical for the album. Fall Forever is a record that swells like a tide, but pulls back just as fast and never quite goes haywire.

It is hard to tell if this unwillingness to let loose is a plus or a minus. One feels that Weiss' pressure cooker lyrics and vocals are just waiting for an opportunity to explode, yet the band's gloomy and moody brand of post-punk also makes this kind of tension exhilarating. For instance, the build that occurs toward the end of 'Until You' creates huge knots in the listener's chest but then it all rather swiftly all fades away. These kinds of games can be quite rewarding, but over the course of the album's full runtime, it is hard not to wish for one big release. If not for the listener then for Weiss because it sounds like she could really use a blow-up.

Fall Forever is a dark, dark record. The ominous lyrics and instrumentation lend themselves well to the band's preoccupations. It also doesn't hurt that the album is a damn pretty listen. Weiss' voice is capable of igniting serious chills (see: her performance on 'Trauma') while the dense and expressive instrumentation has pushed Fear Of Men's sound in a fresh, exciting direction. One feels that the band's lid has to blow at some point with so much emotional pressure bubbling beneath the surface, but for now, the group remain solid crafters of beautifully tense music.