BBP!’s Album of the Week: “Fear Before,” Fear Before (2008)

Fear Before (formerly known as Fear Before the March of Flames) was an experimental post-hardcore band in the early 2000s. They hold a very special, sentimental place in my heart. Over the years, through life changes and an ever-evolving musical taste, this band has stuck with me. They have held my hand and inspired me; they have hurt me and helped me just the same. This article was initially six pages long when I sent the WIP to BBP!. Understandably, I needed to condense my thoughts. But, to paint the most accurate picture, I have to provide at least a bit of context.

Fear Before has never released the same record twice. You could compare their discography to the stages of grief. During their debut LP, Odd How People Shake, we were in the stage of denial. They were in high school when they wrote it. Their hearts were bleeding, and they needed to show you the blood. It’s full of angst, voice cracking, and ugly chords. They were teenagers–moderately aware of the world, but yet to develop a thickened skin towards it. Their second album, Art Damage, is clearly the stage of anger. It is more aggressive, noisier, and more hideous than its predecessor. In terms of sound, it is arguably their heaviest album. By their third release, The Always Open Mouth, we have skipped the stage of bargaining, and moved to depression. The songs have slowed way down, no longer weaving in and out of traffic, no longer concerned with showing you their bleeding hearts. Rather than drinking to have a good time, The Always Open Mouth drinks because it feels that it needs to. This album has the most listens on Spotify. By this metric, it is their most popular release. Across all of these albums, their sound changed drastically.

For Fear Before, the band’s fourth and final LP, they changed their name to the abridged Fear Before. This confused some people, and some more stubborn fans would never accept the change, but this change is essential to the evolution of the band. When an artist puts out material that is loved by many, there are always those who want that artist to sound exactly the same forever. They don’t want the artist to evolve. They want to have the same experience over and over again, but recontextualized. They want the same gift with different wrapping paper. Not only is this a moronic expectation of creators, but it renders the artists as laborers, rather than artists. Art is work. Work is hard. The difference is that art is fulfilling, and it wouldn’t be fulfilling if people made music purely for the entertainment of others. By dropping …The March of Flames, the band has declined this expectation. This album had one single, “Fear Before Doesn’t Listen to People Who Don’t Like Them,” which clearly references this experience. If you watch the music video for this song on YouTube, there are comments from 13 years ago where people are complaining about the name change. Dude, the song is about you.

Fear Before has minimal screaming. That makes sense to me. Not to mention what years of touring will eventually do to an untrained voice; the need to scream has balanced out with their emotions. The songs aren’t quite begging for your attention like they do on Odd How People Shake. It doesn’t have the Art Damage production style that shreds you to ribbons. The lyrics aren’t draining the life out of you as they do on The Always Open Mouth. What makes me so happy with Fear Before is that it is enthusiastic. It wants to live. It has a balanced, holistic perspective. It doesn’t need the sadness to feel like itself anymore. I’ve listened to this band for over half of my life. I want these people to feel enthusiastic. I don’t want them to hurt, even if it means that good music comes out of their hurting as a result. I want them to feel fine. It is on this album where we finally reach the stage of acceptance, and we are able to utilize our past as a resource for the present and future. We can roll with the punches and move on when we’re ready. This album holds my hand. It helps me when I need guidance.

For each Fear Before record, there is a lyric that succinctly summarizes the emotional perspective of that record. For Fear Before, I think that this is a fair nomination:

“We wish our lives were different, but they wouldn’t be our lives.”

Bishop Martin, 24, lives in Knoxville, TN. He makes, performs, thinks about, talks about, and writes about music more than anything else. He shows love to the people who love him. He wishes to listen, to be helpful, to be gentle, and to be considered generally pleasant. He co-hosts his local college’s metal specialty show, The Funeral Directory, (most) Monday nights with his close friend and bandmate, Seth. If you would like to read more of his writing, you can find more of his music reviews at Can This Even Be Called Music?. Thank you.

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