Fear Of Men is a three-piece group from Brighton who released their acclaimed debut Loom in 2014. This year they are back with Fall Forever, a thirty minute rush of dark dream-pop, all set firmly in the realm of indie pop. If that makes little sense just think of The XX or CHVRCHES. Both of these comparisons hint at the fact that Fear Of Men is lead by a female vocalist, Jessica Wiess. Wiess has a voice that manages to sound raw yet somehow ethereal above the albums musical landscapes. It is familiar too, sounding identical to other southern songstresses such as Lucy Rose and Daughters Elena Tonra. In this case, I feel the lack of a distinct voice is no bad thing, as it allows Wiess to blend into the overall mix of sounds a lot more easily.
A major evolution of the bands sound has been in their instrumentation. In Undine you can hear the guitars but under a heavy veil of effects. A decision seems to have been made to get guitars to sounds like synths, rather than attempt the reverse. This can mean that some of the songs lack any sort of kick when relying on just this and sparse, snare-heavy drums. Ruins, an otherwise uneventful song, also features numerous snare rolls but just about manages to avoid sounding too much like a marching band.
In the main body comes three tracks with much more promise. Island starts with Sigur Ros style reversed voices before developing into a catchy track that showcases the band at their musical best. However, for such an uncomplicated song, lyrics like “I’m faithful to my own morality, convictions that bend when I’m in shallow seas” seem pretentious and out of place. The pretentiousness is gladly broken in Trauma, my personal favourite, with rhythmic synth sequences and a chorus repeated more than twice. The drummer Michael Miles is once again very keen to get as many snare drum hits as possible in, someone should take away his sticks before he gets close to spoiling another song.
The most exciting prospect is Until You. It is musically groundbreaking for the band featuring distorted pads and a pulsing bassline. If Fear Of Men make dream-pop the chorus of Until You can only be described as the perfect nightmare. The same words from the start of the track are manipulated out of coherence into a wonderful mashup of sounds. But wait. Who gave Michael the sticks back? The snares are back again in force. I am of course being too harsh, the drums really drive this song and more attention to them could have provided a stronger climax to the track.
The main songwriter of the record, Wiess, has called Fall Forever a love album. Although with its dark tones and moody lyrics, it is clearly more the falling apart of love that this record concerns. It follows a clear arc, with the first part being of pent up frustration and fighting, while the second of acceptance and pride. The two are separated by Erase (Aubade), a short but sweet transition track. An aubade is a piece of music to the dawn or early morning which in this case leaves the singer waking up and starting fresh from her relationship. The words ”I dont need to please you” are sung without accompaniment at the song’s close, marking her new independence.
This attitude is continued through the closing of the album. Without the internal conflict, Sane, the first single released, falls a little flat. It is a victory call with lines like I am a monument to myself. The track reaches nearly five minutes but doesn’t provide anything musically that hasn’t already been explored earlier in the album. Yes. That means a curtain call for their beloved snare rolls. A little research reveals that Onsra, the title of the closing track, is the word for the act of loving for the last time in an obscure Indian language. The refrain ”fall forever, fall together” repeats and rounds off the overall concept in this beautiful and simple song.
There are many things to like in this album. It stands up to repeat listens, has a consistent concept and impressive sound crafting. Why only 2.5 pears then? It doesn’t excite me. Despite it being technically good, Fall Forever doesnt have enough spark or flare to have me wanting to hear their next release. My advice would be listen to the three picks which showcase all Fear Of Men have to offer. Then take or leave the rest.
Picks:Island, Trauma, Until You