Four albums down the line and Fear Before, formerly Fear Before The March Of Flames, are still refining their sound. Allow me to give you a little re-cap.

Their first album, Odd How People Shake was a wiry post-hardcore affair, all punchy, twitchy riffs and yelped vocals. Sophomore effort Art Damage was a more muscular affair, featuring plenty of beatdowns and gravel throated roars. Follow up album The Always Open Mouth showed them starting to experiment with electronics, adding layers of beeps and clicks on top of their usual sound. This brings us to Fear Before and at the risk of sounding condescending this album shows that the band has definitely matured over the years, streamlining their sound without losing any of the intensity, beauty or brutality of the music.

There have also been some changes to the line-up since last we heard them, in new drummer Clayton Hollyoak and guitarist Zachary Hutchings, which may go some way to explaining these recent changes although as I have mentioned they have never been a band that has been afraid to do things they’re own way.

The new album also features guest vocals from some of the bands that Fear Before have been on the road with since the beginning, namely Robert Smith of Heavy Heavy Low Low and Thomas Erak of The Fall of Troy which is something new for the band and adds some interesting vocal interplay to the songs.

The track featuring Smith, Get Your Life Together is classic Fear Before. Beginning with just a vocal and drum track the album bursts into life with a down tuned bass heavy riff before attacking you with a double bass drum assault and a sing along chorus “I’ve still got my eyeballs, ten fingers and toes”. The song wraps up with a crushing beatdown which will certainly have fists crashing into faces when they play it live.

The production on this album is a lot cleaner than those that have come before. The vocals particularly are far clearer than previous outings which can lead to some occasionally cringe inducing lyrical moments, like “He asked me for a cigarette like any other guy, I said you can’t smoke you’re just a baby” which work within the context of the song but when written down come across as clunky.

There are very few of these missteps though, as evidenced by the contemplative acoustic guitar driven Jabberwocky which calls back to the mid song interlude on Odd How People Shake and shows that Adam Fisher is capable of writing heart-felt and affecting lyrics “There are things there are creatures about with big hands and cavernous mouths. That’s what I’m afraid of these days.” It all ends with a full band crescendo and shows that they band are capable of doing tender just as well as they are heavy.

For me though the real stand out track is Fear Before Don’t Listen to People Who Don’t Like Them which is as much a mission statement as it is a song and manages to contain something from every iteration of the band. The double bass drumming that is prevalent throughout the song really drives it forward and the vocoder draped vocals add to the baroque atmosphere of the song which all builds up with stirring strings and keys before dropping back in for one last aural assault.

It’s a solid album by a band that has been toiling too long without much recognition. Hopefully it will allow them to reach a larger audience, keep an eye out for them when they tour the UK as they will no doubt also bring over some of their equally talented friends.