June 9th, 2010
Release Date: April 20th, 2009
Label: Search And Destroy
Fightstar‘s new record ‘Be Human’ is a new start in many ways. They had to release it out their own in a joint venture with their management team, and they’ve whipped out the orchestras to take things epic. Now the normal heavy alt-rock sound is still there, the one that shut up the naysayers with their Busted-based arguments on debut ‘Grand Unification’, but now it sounds more like a soundtrack than a traditional album.
So, as I mentioned the first thing that is heard on the new album is a strong string section, something then clicked; Charlie Simpson likes Biffy Clyro. Biffy Clyro mixed hard rock with orchestral tendencies very recently. Is this a rock conspiracy?! Or a mere coincidence? That silliness aside, opener ‘Calling All Stations’ has a far grander feel than anything we’ve experienced from the band before. However, despite the new found love of classical instrumentation we find that Charlie Simpson‘s desperate sounding vocal is not lost, neither are the catchy punk pop choruses or the crunchy guitar work. However, the problem is unlike a lot of bands who have a lot of success melding the two, Fightstar seem to have difficulty finding the right balance between the grand and the rock. Songs like ‘War Machine’ would have been perfectly good with the strong song as it was and with some sweeping strings coming in towards the crescendo, but instead it permeates the entire song and takes it a little over the top. This pattern improves a lot with the first real hint of aggression on the album in ‘Colours Bleed To Red’ which has lots of riffs, arpeggios and neat little breakdowns and is a nice pop-punk jaunt with a slightly more brutal climax, and is the first song that doesn’t feel like Hans Zimmer lite. Things take a turn for the weird with the opening harmonica in ‘Whisperer’ which then takes a more traditional metal route guitar wise even if the vocal and melody doesn’t. However, the song then proceeds to change about three times, something very Biffy-esque if I dare to bring that up again. Once you get over the first quarter of the album though, things revert very much to the traditional sometimes soft sometimes heavy pop-rock Fightstar have built their reputation on. As the album goes on the orchestra compliments the songs rather than being a hindrance with some of the lush vocal sections in ‘Give Me The Sky’ being a good example. This trend continues with some nice growl sections with a neat segue into the clean ones in songs like ‘Chemical Blood’ which then does take an admitted turn for the Star Wars. Then there is the straight up heaviness that comes through in certain sections and like in ‘Give Me The Sky’ it works as a nice contrast to the orchestral sections because as songs like ‘Damocles’ show the balance is intricate.
Overall, Fightstar have crafted an album of their usual addictive, sometimes moshable, sometimes anthemic alt-pop-rock, but in places have overloaded it with symphonic qualities. In some places it really works, but in others it really doesn’t and finding the right mix is really the only place they went wrong here. But I guess if I’d hired a 16-piece orchestra I’d probably want to make the most of it.
Written by Paul Smith