The radio-rock ecosystem has always seemed like a strange beast, mostly because its aversion to anything remotely fresh or innovative seems totally counterintuitive with the success it’s looking to glean. It doesn’t help matters that these bands tend to become huge simply by being force-fed to listeners who need to be told straight up what they like, but it’s hard to see where the creative fulfillment comes in following a rubric to the letter and cashing in. Then there’s a band like Through Fire, who seem so desperate to pick up a payday that rebranding themselves from Emphatic was thought of as the best way to go, rather than actually moving away from a stifled hard rock mould and into a sound that could actually give them a fair chance of standing out. After all, it’s not like the infinite amount of bands just like this are going to give way to let another face in the crowd get a share of the limelight, especially when those other bands already have their guaranteed success on each album cycle locked down.
Through Fire, meanwhile, wear their need for validation like a badge of honour, which is really the only explanation for why All Animal is as adherent to the rock-by-algorithm mindset as it is. As much as Through Fire want to be the next big superstars bringing hard rock into the 21st Century, this couldn’t feel safer or more clandestine if it tried, meticulously crafting every thought with dollar signs in mind, to the point where this patchwork of derivation has absolutely nothing of its own, and ultimately slinks back into the crowd for good.
If nothing else, at least Through Fire are aiming higher than being the bar band getting paid with free chicken wings; there’s actually a hint of a band looking to step up into the genre’s upper tiers with the electronic embellishments that make it all seem marginally more contemporary. That doesn’t mean this is good, mind, and if all of that was stripped away, this would still be the rote, recycled angst-rock that bands like Three Days Grace and Breaking Benjamin have turning into a mind-bogglingly huge commodity. But by emulating that so closely, Through Fire are showing nothing of themselves, and between the downtuned mush of guitars, the safe, regimented production and Grant Joshua Kendrick’s vocal performance that could come from literally anyone in this scene, it’s so easy to zone out at any given moment, such is the profound lack of inspiration that this album shows. Granted, the stiff country-pop of Die Sober is as compelling a case as any for why they should stick to what they know, but when there’s as little to work with as there is here, Through Fire just end up feeling so incredibly boring and lifeless. Even though the cover of Roxette’s Listen To Your Heart comes out of absolutely nowhere, it has the residual swell and passion of the original; elsewhere, All Animal feels like a chore to get through, if only because this exact approximation of this sound has been done to death.
Though, compared to the lyrics and themes, All Animal’s execution might as well be some mind-bending prog opus, as it’s hard to think of an instance of a band phoning it in as much as Through Fire do here. Again, it’s all been crafted to maximise an overall profit, and so from the generally shallow angst to entry-level phraseology, there’s not one instance of intelligence or unique personality across this entire album. Kendrick wants to show how dangerous he can be on the title track and Breaking Point, and how he’ll only end up hurting his partner on If You Love Me, Leave Me, but he’s also a sensitive soul who’ll save the day on Superhero, and this is getting past the point of generic and into the level of songs written by a neural network. What Through Fire were actually going for here beyond blatant shilling is a total mystery, especially when half the time they struggle with even piecing together a good hook, something that can typically rescue songs as bland as this. But instead, the post-grunge mulch has just congealed into an even bigger mess, and it produces nothing of value whatsoever.
And with all the in mind, it makes Through Fire’s ambitions come across as even hazier. When there are so many bands doing this exact style of music with these exact sentiments better, why is there any need for an album like this? Sure, it sounds a bit more modern, but that only makes it feel even less soulless, like this meatheaded branch of rock is just chasing more trends in tandem with its already meagre goals. At least knowing that this will likely get nowhere is some consolation, but a piece of advice to any new bands – aim higher than the bare minimum. There’s a lot more you can do, and it’s exponentially more fulfilling than this.
For fans of: Three Days Grace, Adelitas Way, Theory Of A Deadman
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘All Animal’ by Through Fire is out now on Sumerian Records.