Heavy metal is a stubborn genre that it is generally not accepting of any sort of deviations from the norm (please see exhibits A – Metallica/Load and B – Machine Head/The Burning Red). Heavy metal has only ever had one commandment – Play harder, louder, and faster. This puts obvious constraints on a band wanting to play metal music some thirty years after the emergence of the genre. The peak of human riff speed has already been achieved and the throat can only be so guttural before it gives out. So what’s a new band supposed to do?
On Fear Control’s debut release, Conviction, they proved they are as capable as any other metal band out there. Capable, however, is simply the price of admission to the big boys table, the question is where do you go from there? The Monster, the new EP from Fear Control, is an exercise in growth. There is nothing on this record that jumps out and grabs you the same way that “Chains” did from their last release but that’s because they’ve already got that formula down and it’s time to try something new.
In the place of “heavy riff, yell, yell, catchy chorus, yell, yell, breakdown, catchy chorus, heavy riff,” Fear Control experiments with melding sub-genres into cohesive units. Just listen to the drums on the title track, in less than thirty seconds the drums progress from blast beat to galloping punk to hyperactive double-bass. On, Until The Suffering, Fear Control bucks out of the gates with a riff Stephen Carpenter from Deftones is probably kicking himself for not writing and then instead of sticking with it for 3 minutes, they actually have the audacity to throw the riff away and then go where you secretly wish every mid-tempo Deftones song would. Closing track, Contrarian, stands out as particularly special because on the surface level it seems to adhere to harder, louder, faster, but if you listen closely, you find traces of levity – the guitar during the verses hits some major scale notes that normally should have been minor, the backing vocals in the chorus hint at melody without sacrificing aggression.
It should be noted that not all experiments end well. Texas Tea, while a fine attempt at something totally different for the band, wades into the shallow-end metal that bands like Five Finger Death Punch seem intent on drowning themselves in.
In 1971, Black Sabbath released Master of Reality. On Black Sabbath and Paranoid, they proved they could play hard blues rock just as well as anyone else. They could’ve remade those albums over and over again and their fans would have bought them. Master of Reality experimented with psych, classical acoustic interludes, even flutes. As a result, they broke the chains of expectation. The Black Sabbath, from Vol 4 and onward, is really the band that influenced countless other bands that we all admire today. If Sabbath had kept making the same album over and over, the genre would have stagnated.
Heavy metal is in a rut, has been for a long time, and everyone knows it. With, The Monster, Fear Control made a bold move in not simply copying what they knew they could already do well; more bands, in all genres, need to do exactly that. Fear Control has the raw talent to create something truly lasting and special. If they keep pushing their boundaries, stretching beyond the confines of a genre that has held itself back, their next release might be the new Master of Reality that this genre so desperately needs.