There are rumours floating around that ever-reliable source the Internet that Charlie Simpson might be rejoining his old bandmates in Busted next year. Stranger things have happened, but it seems very unlikely for two main reasons. One – it’s only been a year since Fightstar, Simpson’s now-main band, returned from hiatus, and two – they’ve just released Behind The Devil’s Back, their heaviest and most nuanced album to date.
Fightstar’s fourth album sees the picking up where they left off, layering post-hardcore and alt-metal riffs over a vast cinematic scope, but this time with the former turbocharged and with a few electronic flourishes to bring them right up to date. The result is Behind The Devil’s Back, an album that wholly retains the band’s epicness but with its metallic heart worn prominently on its sleeve. It’s something that’s become a much more intrinsic feature on this album as well – it’s much heavier than their past material thanks to the deft weaving in of a whole gamut of influences. As ever Deftones are a prominent reference point such as in the winding The Blackest Of Birds or Titan‘s explosive fervour, but it’s built on to an even greater degree. The riff that kicks off opener Sharp Tongue is without a doubt the heaviest thing this band have ever written, while the flurry of intensity in Sink With The Snakes genuinely borders on Slipknot territory. It’s enough evidence to show that this isn’t a mere cash-grab reunion – it’s one that sees Fightstar return with the genuine intent of furthering themselves, something that Behind The Devil’s Back does extremely well.
Melody is also a big feature as always, and it’s deftly interspersed amongst the heaviness on the album to great effect. Animal has a snarl to it that refuses to be dulled when it comes to the soaring chorus, while Overdrive is the clear big radio hit to come from these ten songs (that’s by no means a bad thing – it’s this album’s Mercury Summer in that it condenses everything brilliant about Fightstar into a more mainstream-friendly guise) and closer Dive builds from gentle waves to crushing heaviness by way of jittery electronics. It’s a smooth meld of the two elements, as smooth as Fighstar has ever been, and shows that their hiatus hasn’t been too detrimental to their performance.
Such refinement of both elements also comes in the interplay between Simpson’s more enigmatic vocals, and those of guitarist / co-vocalist Alex Westaway, who’s technique seems to have developed to resemble In Flames’ Anders Fridén (again, a widening of the metal palette). The likes of Sharp Tongue and Murder All Over definitely benefit from the dual vocal styles coming into play, but Westaway proves that he’s best in small doses as shown in More Human Than Human, the sole song on the album where he takes lead vocal duties, but comes across as sluggish and stunted in comparison.
Overall though, Behind The Devil’s Back sees Fightstar returning in fighting form, easily enough to regain the slot on Britain’s musical map that they once left behind. And if this really is Fightstar back for good, as a jumping off point, this album could potentially pave the way for even greater things to come. But most of all, it makes it seem pretty clear that Charlie’s staying exactly where he is.
For fans of: Deftones, Hundred Reasons, Reuben
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Behind The Devil’s Back’ by Fightstar is out now.