Are you ready to die?
Is anyone, really? The 89 rock music fans mercilessly slaughtered by ISIL terrorists on November 13, 2015 at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris, France, probably weren’t prepared to go that night. The hand of pure, inexorable evil reached down and extracted those concertgoers from the living in the most tragic manner possible, evolving humanity’s immorality yet a further step. It should piss you off. It pissed off Fit for a King.
At the time of the Paris attacks, the Tyler, Texas-based metalcore band were a mere nine hours away at tour stop in Hamburg, Germany, preparing to play Paris four days later. As with any music act traveling Europe in the aftermath, the group thought long and hard about continuing the trek. Upon consideration, the band played their Paris show as scheduled knowing it would be lightly attended, the members of Fit for a King and the concert’s few attendees offering up the performance as defiant celebration of life in the face of inexplicable, unwarranted death.
The story of Deathgrip starts there, in Paris. According to vocalist Ryan Kirby, the aforementioned events “sparked everything” in regard to the album’s lyrical content. Deathgrip’s first single, “Pissed Off,” which first premiered back in August, relives the horrors of the Paris tragedy (and other tragic massacres) in an angry, heavy assault on the world’s never-ending genocides and seemingly hopeless progression of life toward death. In the smart, concise composition, Kirby calls out all of Fit for a King’s previous albums: Descendants (2011), Creation/Destruction (2013), and Slave to Nothing (2014). It’s a fitting introduction to the brooding, pummeling nature of Deathgrip.
A massive step forward in the band’s sound, Deathgrip could very well be the heaviest thing Fit for a King has ever released, in both sonic scope and thematic content. The opening blast beats of “Dead Memory” and its crushing breakdowns folded nicely among the eerie guitar serves as a torrid background for the song’s story of a family torn apart by selfishness, a daughter’s journey in life with an AWOL father. “Cold Room” starts with an impressive prog-rock guitar lick before opening up into one of the band’s catchiest choruses in recent memory. The song’s topic stays with the course of the program, a sad story of a mother losing her child. (Stack “Cold Room” next to Zao’s “A Tool to Scream” and The Juliana Theory’s “For Evangeline” as one of the more creative, soul-crushing explorations of abortion on record.)
Deathgrip is undoubtedly a success in as far as the lyrical and musical heights reached by Kirby and Fit for a King. As much as it is a monumental metalcore achievement and a solid album entry for the band, it’s an achingly sad record. That may be unavoidable. Sometimes, it seems, that musical melancholy is hard to evade in heavy music, and it does serve a purpose. This is a serious album. If you’re a fan of powerful breakdowns and solemn, soul-searching subject matter, Deathgrip is right in your wheelhouse.
Few are truly ready for death’s grip, yet we’ll all feel it eventually as dust always returns to the earth. Something can be said for not fearing those who kill the body — as ISIL did in Paris last year — since they cannot kill the soul. Fit for a King knows this. Still, those may seem futile words for the families of those who lost their lives at the hands of terrorists. Alongside FFAK, we should all be pissed off at it. Are we ready?