Like an ambitious chef, Fear Before has attempted a new recipe with each of its four releases. The Colorado quintet's 2003 debut, Odd How People Shake, raged with clamorous hardcore before graduating to a more spastic, experimental mathcore approach, for 2004's Art Damage. It toned down the noisy, frenetic rumble on 2006's The Always Open Mouth, exploring a heavier, metal-influenced sound that also invoked its share of electro-clatter and atmospheric arrangements. For its latest, the band dropped the last half of its name (formerly Fear Before the March of Flames). The new Fear Before continues in the cinematic vein of the band's previous album, sanding away even more of the jagged corners. The moody 10-track release comes bathed in gothic operatic emo-core shadow, guitars racing sleekly across dark, ever-building prog-inflected backdrops, as if it were The Mars Volta in mascara. Though hints of Fear Before's tumultuous legacy remain, greater emphasis on melody — from the acoustic guitar elegy "Jabberwocky" to the stormy "I'm Fine Today" — undermines the cause a bit. Neither David Marion nor Adam Fisher is a particularly tuneful singer. They aren't helped by the number of vocal overdubs that careen around the mix, overlapping as if they came from a pitch-impaired Broadway musical. While still inventive musically, Fear Before feels like a misfire that the band will surely move on from.
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