September 10, 2018 Fit For A King – Dark Skies (Album Review)
Even under the darkest of skies, one can find an inkling of hope – especially when Fit For A King guide the way. Their latest, the aptly-titled Dark Skies, arrives Friday, September 14, 2018, thanks to Solid State Records. They promise unwavering honesty, even under the grayest, cloudiest of rain-soaked skies.
Formed in Dallas, Texas, in 2007, Metalcore outfit Fit For A King would issue their independent debut, Descendants, in 2011. It would be 2013’s Creation/Destruction – a rerecording of Descendants and their Solid State Records debut – that placed the band onto the musical map, charting in the Billboard 200, along with the Christian Albums, Hard Rock, Top Rock, and Heatseekers charts. This was followed by equally impressive releases – 2014’s Slave to Nothing and 2016’s Deathgrip – as the band continued to work hard to build a name for themselves.
Of course, lineup changes are a given these days, but the boys have relentlessly soldiered onward. Their dogged determination to the road has brought them to share stages with the likes of Beartooth, Every Time I Die, August Burns Red, The Amity Affliction, Whitechapel, For Today, After The Burial, and Attila, to name but a few. They are also, like so many bands in the scene, veterans of the Vans Warped Tour.
Now, Fit For A King – Vocalist Ryan Kirby, Guitarist Bobby Lynge, Bassist/Vocalist Ryan “Tuck” O’Leary, and Drummer Jared Easterling – return with their fifth (or fourth, if you like) full-length studio offering, Dark Skies. Produced by the superbly-talented Drew Fulk (Motionless In White, I Prevail), the 10-song collection sees Fit For A King perilously poking into the darkest holes of life. Vocalist Kirby explains perfectly: “This album is far from happy. It’s about personal struggles. It touches on many subjects relevant to all of our daily lives.” Yet, Fit For A King arise from their journey triumphant and strong – in themselves and their belief in something greater.
Dark Skies starts with guitar and atmospherics that build into the explosion of “Engraved,” with Djent-y guitars resonating around Kirby’s vicious growls. The choruses are full-on melody, soaring into the lyrical stumbles we make as we search for a place and a purpose in life. It all comes together to formulate a strong, fierce beginning to the collection. Next, the political divide in our nation never sounded as sweet as on the banger “The Price of Agony” (“There’s a heart that beats for hope / There’s a voice that fights for reason”), where embittered, aggravated verses clash with delicate choruses that seek to raise pertinent questions.
A lit fuse, they present a full-throttle assault on “Backbreaker,” a massive wall of sound that questions where our loyalties should lie when there’s literally no one left to trust. They continue slaughtering the senses on “Anthem of the Defeated” (“If I don’t fix my life, I could die tonight”), chock-full of rage and one killer guitar solo. If this seems a little hopeless for this hopeful band, don’t fret! Next up, atmospherics weave throughout the core of “When Everything Means Nothing,” not exactly an anti-suicide song, but a reminder that it is okay to struggle – especially if you were “born in the rain.” Because it’s not blatantly looking for anthemic status, “When Everything Means Nothing” (“I try to smile, try to fight / Just say I’m okay / But every day feels like a hurricane”) is more powerful, more emotionally pure – and, therefore, a definite stand out.
Fit For A King perfectly balance their melodies with their vicious core on “Youth | Division,” a bass-heavy assault that meanders through moments of emotionally-lilting melodies, to a killer guitar solo, and beyond. The result is a track that implores us to fight back against the poison in our souls and, in turn, it is catchy enough that you cannot help but move along. Similarly, slaughtering “Shattered Glass,” with its heavy Djent dustings, explores the feeling of being buried alive, and the fight to escape that self-rot. Meanwhile, “When my heart no longer beats, what will I see?” is the central question in “Tower of Pain.” Here, there are Thrash-y moments and heavy atmospherics that blend into the band’s vicious attack to set an overwhelmingly heavy pace as they explore the duality of heaven and hell.
Almost in reaction to the brutality of its predecessor, the band dip into gentle territory on the electronically-helmed beginning of “Debts of the Soul.” It does pick up, but the electronica is a fun respite and a moment of experimental risk-taking. It flows straight into album closer, the emotional “Oblivion,” a desperate search for forgiveness. Despite our shortcomings, our stumbles and falls, we all want to know that there’s something greater out there for us, watching over us – and we wish to never be forgotten. It is a powerful plea and a somber note to end an impressive collection.
Fit For A King can get dirty with the heaviest animals, but their strength lies in their moments of unbridled, emotionally raw melody that contrasts beautifully with the embittered, slaughtering side of their dual personality. For a band who promise transparency, whose battle-cry is a roar in the face of the oubliette of the soul, Dark Skies is a beautifully-authored collection that covers an array of current hot topics and issues, but somehow never once shirks its edge. Keenly alert but with an emotional edge to their observations, Fit For A King remain painstakingly heavy but with those delicious injections of melody and, occasionally, some risk-taking that delights. Finding hope for the hopeless, Fit For A King cement their killer talents on Dark Skies. For these reasons, CrypticRock give the collection 4.5 of 5 stars.