Review: Fightstar – Behind The Devil’s Back

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Six years is a long time. It’s certainly a long time for one band to be absent from the music scene.

Given the variety of projects that the members of Fightstar undertook during their hiatus (frontman Charlie Simpson released two solo albums, and Alex Westaway and Dan Haigh formed 80s synth project Gunship), the band’s comeback was always going to be particularly interesting. How would these different influences affect Behind The Devil’s Back? Would Fightstar follow on from 2009’s Be Human, or would they do something entirely different?

One thing is certain: Behind The Devil’s Back is the heaviest record Fightstar have ever made. Just listen to the first 25 seconds of brutal opener ‘Sharp Tongue’. Then there’s the Deftones-eque title track, which expertly blends subtle vocal harmonies and melody with thunderous drumming and stuttering, slab-like riffs, in the way that Fightstar do so well. In a similar vein, the colossal ‘Titan’ sees Fightstar shift seamlessly between sparse, brooding verses, to furious choruses featuring vicious screams from Simpson, which culminate in a particularly menacing and grungy closing riff.

Despite it being heavier than previous album Be Human, the pop-rock hooks of Fightstar’s 2009 release (see ‘Never Change’, ‘Mercury Summer’) are still present on Behind The Devil’s Back. ‘Murder All Over’ and lead single ‘Animal’ shine with soaring choruses, with the skittering electronics on the latter track giving it an exquisite melodic texture. Single ‘Sink With The Snakes’ annihilates everything in its path, with blistering guitars and manic, exceptional drumming from Omar Abidi, while still packing in an infectious chorus.

A particular highlight of the album comes in the form of the 80s synth-laden ‘More Human Than Human’. Alex Westaway’s softer, more delicate vocal dynamic works wonderfully with the skyward climbing chorus, creating a moment on the album that is as stunning as it is crushing and heavy. Those synths appear again on closing track ‘Dive’, building a vast, atmospheric chorus with dreamlike vocals from Simpson – until the album ends with a sudden outburst of ruthless guitars and pummelling drums.

Behind The Devil’s Back is a complex, intricately layered album which expertly weaves melody, heaviness, delicacy and ferocity together. Each element has been precisely measured and has a specific and necessary purpose, making for an album that is entirely unified, and entirely worth the six year wait.

It’s good to have you back, Fightstar.

Behind The Devil’s Back is out now via Fightstar’s own record label.

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Final year English Literature student. Often found making lots of noise behind a drum kit. Also a writer of album & live reviews, features and news articles.

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