Fear Before - Art Damage (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Fear Before

Art Damage (2004)

Equal Vision

While Aubin may have cited a lack of continuity and originality not only in Fear Before the March of Flames's awkward acronym but sound as well on their Rise released / Equal Vision re-released debut full-length Odd How People Shake, I happened to really enjoy the record. Rarely can a band appear influenced by The Blood Brothers lately without coming off like second-rate cop-outs; Fear Before did the former, avoided the latter, continued an obvious abandonment of traditional verse-chorus structure, swiftly dodged most hardcore clichés, and jumped genres and styles like streetchalk hopscotch. All in all, I thought it was by far one of the better debuts of the year.

Well, how many different ways can you say "sophomore slump?"

Fear Before takes a truly lazy turn on Art Damage, showing a band that has not only fallen victim to playing a much more straightforward, significantly harder style, but also linking together the aforementioned verse-chorus structure, a lack thereof they once prided themselves on. Losing the two-guitar sound didn't necessarily have to equate to a lone axeman resorting to wankery riffs every five seconds, but it's precisely the end result. Hardcore doesn't always stand on its own alone well. Sure, the band hasn't yet delved into purely pointless mosh theatrics just yet (save for the opener, "Hey Kid. I'm A Computer. Stop All The Downloading," which is actually the best track, with its flat-out awesome percussion work [see double-time intro, near-grind segue in bridge]), but the now-droning, solo vocal style, in which the melodic backups have all but disappeared, paired with repetitive lyric shouts and cycled riffs don't account for very much enjoyability. The vocals are screamed without a skosh of regard for comprehension, to the point where even following along in the liner notes won't help - it's like trying to read tourist information in a foreign country's native language. The aforementioned ebaumsworld reference "Hey Kid..." and its following track, "Should Have Stayed In the Shallows," are really the only legitimately good songs. The playful song titles are vividly overshadowed by the mediocrity and inarguably kitsch nature of the record's remaining parts. Some critics claim that an increased concentration on Botch is the alibi for the band's abruptly "meh" transition, but if that's the case, the band has failed to live up to the reasonable expectations that would accomodate this proposed theory.

On its own, Fear Before The March Of Flames's second offering isn't a terrible record. It's some fantastic background noise, even. But Art Damage pales albino-like in comparison to both the potential and kinetic energy displayed on the band's debut, a discouraging effort from a group once trying to stray at least somewhat from the norm.

Hey Kid. I'm A Computer. Stop All The Downloading.
The State Of Texas Vs. Fear Before