REVIEW: Spiritbox – EP: The Fear of Fear

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Canadian metalcore sensation SPIRITBOX are back with a new release that is destined to shake the metal scene to the core. The band followed up their excellent debut album, Eternal Blue (2021), first with the 3-track single, “Rotoscope,” (2022) and now with the 6-track EP, “The Fear of Fear,” a monster release that proves once again that their meteoric rise to fame was not a fluke but was actually fueled by talent, hard work, creativity, and determination. The EP in question was released on November 3rd, 2023, via Rise Records/Pale Chord.

In between the hefty breakdowns and the moments of pop sensibility, this is a really well-balanced EP with a lot of variety on display. In this sense, the EP flows smoothly from some very heavy tracks to some more atmospheric numbers with some catchy choruses in between. No matter the degree of heaviness or the lightness of the ambiance, all six tracks bear the SPIRITBOX trademark. There’s also a certain feeling of fragility and delicacy that comes from the breathy vocals of Courtney LaPlante which always contrast nicely with the thumping bass and meaty guitars. Given the fact that they are at the beginning of their career, there is still a freshness to their music which feels quite invigorating to me.

The EP opens up with what is undoubtedly their heaviest track to date, “Cellar Door.” This ferocious and dissonant outing boasts chunky riffs, blast beats, and vicious growls while an ominous-sounding synth coats everything into a dark and gloomy ambiance. However, the masterstroke of genius on this musically dense track is the ending where the instrumentals and vocals slowly fade out as a chiming synth becomes louder and louder leading to a seamless transition into the next track, “Jaded.” As far as I’m concerned, “Jaded” is the quintessential SPIRITBOX song as it perfectly combines a beautiful, poppy chorus with djenty riffs, and a mix of ethereal cleans and deep growls, all wrapped up by an eerie backing synth melody. The band have really found the sweet spot between punchiness and melody with this one. Sure, one can argue the same is true about likes of “Circle with Me” or “Rotoscope” and they wouldn’t be wrong, but personally I prefer “Jaded” much more because of the lyrics and the crisp production that highlights the song’s internal dynamics.  

Things shift yet again with “Too Close/Too Late,” a very atmospheric song that begins on soft keys and serene vocals. Josh Gilbert’s droning bass complements LaPlante’s delivery creating a neat juxtaposition of nuances while the drum fills and layered vocals halfway through add depth and groove to the fold. The track transitions neatly into “Angel Eyes” and since this was intentionally thought out to be a concept EP with one long song separated into six parts such attention to detail like repeated musical and lyrical motifs as well as a smooth flow of the music from one song to the next shouldn’t really come as a surprise; yet these little decisions coupled with a superb mix have a great impact on the overall enjoyment of the tracks, either individually or as part of this EP’s storytelling aspect. Getting back to the industrial-sounding “Angel Eyes,” this is another heavy number with killer grooves coming from the massive drum sound and thundering bass, while LaPlante’s guttural screams are vicious and the crunchy riffs are relentless. It almost challenges “Cellar Door” and “Holy Roller” as the heaviest track in SPIRITBOX’s catalog.         

Another switch in dynamics brings us to “The Void,” a straightforward and pacey track with an emotional core that the vocals covey beautifully. Considering the wonderful contrast between the calmness of the vocals and the frenzy of the drums and guitars, this track comes across as a dance of light and shadows with a beautiful EDM melody as its driving force. Finishing up this EP is the synth-laden “Ultraviolet” which allows LaPlante more space to shine with her melodic vocals. She’s backed up nicely by a thick bass line and a guitar melody that pops up here and there while some electronic elements embellish the atmosphere. Since earlier I mentioned the cohesive flow of the music, I must now point out the layered sound design that makes everything feel vibrant and intense. There’s so much to delight in especially when it comes to the beginnings and endings of the songs that will leave the listeners mesmerized both by the crisp production value as well as the incredibly detailed and tight songwriting.

There’s little to no doubt that “The Fear of Fear” is one of the year’s top releases as everything from the musicianship and the visuals all the way to the lyrics and concept make it stand out head and shoulders above much of the rest. On a scene where many bands craft their songs following a given formula that works for them, SPIRITBOX’s music comes as a breath of fresh air since you never know what you are going to get from them, and this EP sees them delivering quite a diverse range of songs that makes the listening experience feel like a sonic rollercoaster that goes from heavy to poppy all the way to atmospheric and even progressive at times without missing a single beat. It’s exactly this instant switch between aggressiveness and melodic rawness that makes SPIRITBOX a prolific force to be reckoned with on the metal scene.    

Written by Andrea Crow

Tracklist

1. Cellar Door
2. Jaded
3. Too Close / Too Late
4. Angel Eyes
5. The Void
6. Ultraviolet

Lineup

Courtney LaPlante – Vocals
Mike Stringer – Guitar
Zev Rose – Drums
Josh Gilbert – Bass

Label

Rise Records/Pale Chord

Links

Website               |             Facebook            |             Instagram            |             Spotify