The average life of a modern metalcore band is ironically 1 to 3 albums of actual metalcore then at least 2 albums of genre experimentation or radio rock. Fit For A King have already outlived this generalization.
2018’s Dark Skies was a seminal record that found the Solid State five man outfit growing their sound exponentially in a more outright metal direction while also maintaining the abrasive conviction and earth-shattering breakdowns fans have become so accustomed to. The Path, which is out today, is a similar record to Dark Skies in its approach but seasons its audience to a different approach musically. All ten tracks could each be a single, the sonic variety is larger than ever and the songwriting is more straight-forward.
The Path actually doubles down on the aforementioned metal trajectory. Shockingly, it also drops most of the ‘core’ aspects of the band’s sound. This is actually not a detriment to the record. The effects of success and popularity are definitely felt in the songwriting department, however. Both “Annihilation” and “The Path” show that the FFAK boys are huge Load-era Metallica fans who still listen to Pantera’s “Drag The Waters” while also looping Parkway Drive’s Ire record. Metallica could ride one riff for a four minute duration no problem. FFAK, no matter how good of a groove they get in with a riff, are built off a little more aggressive approach normally, so these tracks feel like they’re missing something. I can see the fists pumping in the audience to these tracks though. “God of Fire” does largely the exact same thing but with breakdowns and fret bends. The repetition is cumbersome.
Thankfully, the rest of the album is not defined by this approach. Though it drew the ire of a split fanbase when it dropped, “Breaking The Mirror” is a great melodic metal pop single. It benefits greatly from wider dynamics than the previously mentioned singles and is accompanied nicely by even bigger single “Locked (In My Head)”. For the old school FFAK fans, the non-singles are where this record will gain its footing. “Louder Voice” is one of the band’s best songs. The subtle genre shifts throughout the pummeling instrumentation and chemistry shown by the beautiful cleanly sung choruses could have been capitalized on even further than they are throughout the album. “Prophet” is the deepest intellectual piece on the album and perhaps in the band’s entire catalog, begging the question to our creator, “If you can create all of the stars then why can’t you mend a broken heart?”. Where “God of Fire” fails, “Stockholm” and “Vendetta” pass with flying colors. They’re downright bruising and bring the rage front and center. The blistering but short guitar solo in opener “The Face of Hate” adds that extra bit of oomph to the Demon Hunter-esque approach heard in the track.
If you’re noticing inconsistencies in the descriptions of each ‘group’ of songs, this is a reflection of the album’s capacity to be a jack of all trades but master of none. An album like Creation/Destruction allowed consistency to take center stage both to its advantage and disadvantage. This was improved upon greatly on Slave To Nothing. The middle ground between consistent and diverse, however, was certainly Dark Skies. If anything, The Path feels more like a transitional piece to a set of bigger, hookier, melodic songs. Considering the sing-along singles are getting the attention, that’s a safe bet. Fit For A King could headline off the strength of “Locked (In My Head)” and “Breaking The Mirror” alone. And I’m positive that’s what they’re counting on.
I think my biggest gripe with The Path is that it plays like a weaker version of everything that was great about Dark Skies. That “Annihilation” and “The Path”, the album’s most bare tracks, both prominently feature the sound of tolling bells is a coincidental premonition to the fans of the band’s metalcore sound. Those numbered days are becoming increasingly further away in the band’s rearview mirror. However, this album is not without hope. The entire point of The Path is to be a more optimistic record. The title track promises ‘We’ll find the path out of Hell’ which is nice to hear considering the dystopian present proceedings we are all existing in. That’s a well-timed sentiment and just as much written for the band as it is for the fans. Fit For A King are on to greener pastures and, undoubtedly, tomorrow’s answer to a Killswitch Engage or As I Lay Dying. While certainly a deserved title, don’t be fooled by this album’s lofty aspirations. Fit For A King earned this by being the most consistent band in their genre. The Path does nothing to tarnish that fact.