The highly anticipated comeback record from melodic metalcore outfit Phinehas, ‘The Fire Itself’ has finally been released. The album is one of the best metalcore releases of the year, featuring incredible guitar work from Daniel Gailey (who joined Fit For A King during the band’s extended break), alongside a crushing vocal performance from Sean McCulloch and Love and Death’s Isaiah Perez’s ferociously pummeling drumwork. The production of the album is near-perfect, providing a satisfying and enjoyable listening experience throughout, with fantastic tracklist pacing allowing for nearly every single moment on the record to hit exactly as hard as it intends to, something that is very pleasing and honestly, kind of lacking to hear in a new metalcore album in 2021.
‘The Fire Itself’ is easily one of the best records the band has released, if not THE best, and is the heaviest record the outfit has dropped to date. Metalcore has become an incredibly stale genre as of late, with this album finally breaking that mold with nonstop insanely technical and impressive musicianship and a aggressive sound destined to start mosh pits during almost every track live, strangely feeling incredibly refreshing to hear, despite most of the album feeing like an equal, if not better done version of Killswitch Engage and As I Lay Dying classics.
The album’s lyrics are self-reflective for the most part, but unlike their peers in the genre, focus on hope with uplifting messages and quotable lines throughout, instead of wallowing in its own sorrow. “Thorns” is a perfect example of this, drawing connections to the suffering of Jesus Christ throughout the pain experienced in the human life. The track also features one of the heaviest breakdowns on the album, with fantastic guttural from McCulloch. “War We Know” is a lyrical masterpiece, with a poignant and uplifting take on the brokenness of human life, encouraging listeners to push through depression and to never stop fighting even when it feels like hell. “Eternally Apart” also opens the album on an epic note, with acoustic guitars building into an almost 2 minute-long intro to the record before a single line has even been sung.
The choruses on the album are easily some of the highlights, providing a fantastic melodic break in between the savage brutality of the record’s instrumentation, with the choruses of “Dream Thief” and lead single “In the Night” being instantly catchy and some of the best moments in the band’s discography to date. Phinehas flirts with 80s metal influences on “Holy Coward”, which opens with a blistering guitar solo and classic metal groove and some of the best riffs of the album.
The slow-burning “The Storm Itself” is a perfectly timed pallette cleanser, providing a nice break from the crushing brutality with glitched out synths and clean vocals being the primary force throughout the song. Orchestral elements build throughout the chorus as a tasteful, but unexpected use of autotune on the vocals providing an intriguing effect on the track and drawing the listener in. The song builds into an incredibly emotional crescendo, with rhythmic guitars and a melodically dissonant atmosphere close out of the track on the highest note of the album. McCulloch’s vocal performance feels raw, emotional, and genuinely authentic on the track, elevating the song to being my favorite song on the album.
However this album isn’t without weaker spots, “Severed By Self Betrayal” and “Defining Moments” feel like more forgettable and predictable versions of tracks previously heard on the album, at times leaning too much into their own As I Lay Dying influence. There are also moments where some songs do begin to blend, which is a common fault amidst the melodic metalcore genre. Despite its instrumentation, “Holy Coward”’s chorus does fall a bit flat and feels a tad underwhelming.
Overall, ‘The Fire Itself’ isn’t anything particularly new for the genre, in fact, there’s actually nothing particular unique about the record itself, but at the same time, that’s why the album is so exciting. It’s a breath a fresh air for the genre in a scene that currently lacks musicality and technically with its own instrumentation and falls into lyrical tropes, which the album completely subverts and blows out of the water, with some of the most advanced and creative guitar riffs written in a hot minute in the scene, with stellar lyricism and genuinely authentic feeling vocals to go along, a rare combo in the modern metalcore scene. The record is a spectacular comeback after 5 years in between records and one of the best metalcore albums of the year, even if does sound a bit too much like Killswitch Engage or As I Lay Dying at times, and that’s perfectly okay with me.
Phinehas’ sixth full-length studio album ‘The Fire Itself’ is available now on all platforms via Solid State Records. Stream the singles “In The Night” and “Eternally Apart” below.