Lust for or loathe their art, you cannot deny when a band has a buzz swarming around their name. This aroma of need-to-know accompanies Fame On Fire, a cross-genre quartet that needs to be buzzworthy to avoid becoming unintentionally ironic. Well, spoiler alert: they deliver a powerful testament to their worth on Welcome to the Chaos, which arrives on July 22, 2022, thanks to Hopeless Records.
Floridians who began their career as a cover band—placing their mark on hits from the eclectic likes of Adele, Linkin Park, The Weeknd, and more—Fame On Fire was quick to let the world know that their influences are diverse. Blending Pop, Rock, Hip-Hop, and heavy elements to create a sound that is easily digestible no matter your preferred genre, the band began to build a deserved name for themselves with the release of their 2020 debut full-length, Levels. Having completed runs with everyone from Doll Skin to Ice Nine Kills, and set to open for One OK Rock and You Me At Six this September, it would be fair to say that their name is certainly seeing some neon lights.
With Welcome to the Chaos, Fame On Fire—Vocalist Bryan Kuznitz, Guitarist Blake Saul, Bassist Paul Spirou, and Drummer Alex Roman—refuse to fall prey to the sophomore slump. The 13-song, self-produced album marks their second studio offering, one that is comprised of personal struggle; heavy on heartbreak while desperately trying to avoid the crutch of pills.
It opens with an introductory moment, but the real action doesn’t begin until the titular “Welcome to the Chaos” sweeps onto the scene. Featuring Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills, who delivers an on-brand admission to insanity, the rocker offers some dirty, dirgy moments that never quite overtake its undeniably infectious core. An attention-grabber and obvious single, it never manages to break its neck headbanging, leaving it to feel mismatched with the third track, “Ketamine.” Catchy yet formulaic, it provides Kuznitz a moment to evoke thoughts of the incomparable Chester Bennington of Linkin Park.
And as diametrically opposed as the pair of openers appear to be, they are a portent of the diversity to come: the body of a collection that manages to balance its heavier influences with undeniable Pop sensibilities. In fact, the quartet is so insidiously talented at crafting earworms that their material that leans furthest from these radio-caressing moments can suffer. For example, “Cut Throat,” leaning into the Metal sphere and anchored by some deliciously fat bass, is unable to fully convey the rage inherent in its lyrics. It hits hard, no doubt, but it’s not going to rival Slipknot for bottled ferocity.
In fact, the songs that joyfully parade the band’s Pop elements tend to feel more authentic than some of the grittiest material. Clearly, the band’s strengths lie in their Pop Rock moments. A brilliant example of this, “Emo Shit,” which features Kody Lavigne on guest vocals, is a high point. Melding Kuznitz’s ability to bleed for his art, Spirou’s bass skills, and their collective talent at creating authentic additions to the 2022 songbook. Even better, “Plastic Heart” is a banger with Hip Hop influenced verses and a chorus that demands the attention of every ear in a room.
So, throughout Welcome to the Chaos, they hit on a myriad of moments, often happily riding between Pop Rock and Pop Punk (“Lost In Doubt”) to showcase Kuznitz’s soaring vocals (“Signs”). But there is a disbenefit to all of this contagious worming of ears, as, sometimes, despite sounding like a dream, Fame On Fire rests heavily on cliche. Lyrically speaking. Case in point, “Robbery” is a winning combination, sonically, but its lyrics fail to deliver much worth discussing. And though they toss in some interesting elements to attempt to spice things up on other offerings (“Jaded,” “Rotting Away”), it’s just not enough to save the likes of “Dead Or Alive” from being utterly forgettable.
Sure, songs like “Back Then” have nothing necessarily ‘wrong’ with them, but they sound like a million other tracks by a zillion other artists. This makes them a poor representation of a developing band who, with their second studio recording, are already leagues beyond many of their contemporaries. It should be said that it has only been five years since the release of their debut EP, Transitions, and time does have a way of reshaping artists—though they have to do the work.
For Fame On Fire, that work will require honing their songwriting, bringing in an honest and trustworthy producer who can help to challenge them, and pushing Kuznitz to let loose with his powerful vocals. As it stands, their brand of musical chaos is perfectly digestible and something we encourage you to hear because there’s a stellar future ahead for these guys. Thus, Cryptic Rock gives Welcome to the Chaos 4 out of 5 stars.