Whenever an esteemed artist releases a new album, it often comes with a demanding expectation of progression. This usually begins with a solid, but unremarkable debut, an even stronger sophomore release followed by a third offering that silences all before it, and so on. Some artists take the reverse route, others not at all, but Fit For a King has followed this path of progression flawlessly since their independent release, Descendents, back in 2011.
Following the band's excellent sophomore release, Deathgrip can be described as the perfect accumulation of the band's sound up to this point. Despite its hesitation to deviate from past material, it is undoubtedly the band's most accomplished work to date, taking a dark dive into a subject that's no stranger to this genre: death.
The album opens with a muted wail before pummeling the listener with the band's signature breakdown in "The End's Beginning." This moves straight into the leading single, "Pissed Off." While this title may stir some controversy, the song is a fitting response to the subject matter at hand. "Dead Memory," featuring a faultlessly executed appearance by Jake Luhrs, follows in a more melodic fashion compared to its breakdown heavy predecessor. An aggressive verse carries the dark lyricism about abandonment and abuse into an emotional chorus led by clean vocalist Ryan "Tuck" O'Leary, "Would you even notice if my world was falling apart? / Would you even care if my heart stopped beating?"
The thematic material on Deathgrip is the darkest we've heard from the four-piece act yet. Of particular note is the track "Stacking Bodies," featuring Miss May I's Levi Benton. The song is a graphic document of the results of war, famine, and disease and leaves no room for interpretation. Although it's important to have a grasp of the world's horrors lest we forget human value, one may be tempted to ask here "Is it too much?" This is where Deathgrip could become polarizing for some. It's musically and thematically brutal.
Light does occasionally break through the album's dark exterior to provide some of the album's most emotionally gripping moments. "More Than Nameless" encourages those struggling with addiction and abuse to rise above the rejection of the world, while "Unclaimed, Unloved" is a powerful response to God's unwavering love, "Once unclaimed, once unloved / This is where we make our stand....I've met my father / I've met my maker."
Deathgrip just does everything right. It's not only heavy, but incredibly engaging, choosing to keep the dynamics interesting rather than monotonous, something previous releases too often fell claim to. It's a powerful result of continued dedication and commitment, and one the band should be immensely proud of. Admitting its thematic content may deter more sensitive listeners, Deathgrip deserves nothing but praise.
- Review date: 10/13/16, written by Lucas Munachen of Jesusfreakhideout.com