ALBUM REVIEW: Fiddlehead – ‘Death Is Nothing To Us’

Artwork for Fiddlehead’s ‘Death Is Nothing To Us’

Discovering a band named Fiddlehead without hearing a single note could mean anything, what with the range of (prefix)head bands out there. A striped African equine here, an Oxfordian generation-defining gem there. But it’s a supergroup named after a cultivated fern (who knew?) that defies any expectation, delving into the world of passionate hardcore when we all need it most.

The five-piece have not strayed too far from their individual roots. While all steeped into the history of post-hardcore and emo, they’ve managed to reinvent themselves with each release and manifested a loose-fitting trilogy. Duly, Death Is Nothing To Us packs in every ample drop of Fiddlehead’s collective experience to go straight for the jugular this time around. It’s brief, it’s aggressive, but carries over the bountiful melodies that made Between The Richness an immediate genre staple. Both parts, together, seem to work best to express the catalogue’s complex feelings of singular and collective loss.

The album’s intentional directness comes without a trigger warning, with The Deathlife’s wall of sound blowing the speakers with every chordal thrash and drum hit. Patrick Flynn’s vocals are more strained, in line with former band Have Heat, while drummer Shawn Costa (also Have Heart alumni) is the constant driving force playing with vigour and power throughout. Sleepyhead’s serene verse and bridge almost masks a lurking anguish trying to force itself out, which it duly does, from the backs of Alex Henery (Basement) and Alex Dow’s (Big Contest) guitars. They play with measure, harkening back to more subdued pent up emotional post-hardcore on Fiddleheads, which also lets Nick Hinsch’s (Stand Off / Nuclear Age) bass delightfully take hold. Flynn can either be heard at the back of the booth, or seemingly eating his microphone when the guitars are fully pronged to attack for live crowd-surfers, pit dancers and mic-grabbers en masse.

While the guitars do slow to heady atmospheric leads on the reflective Give It Time (II) interlude, Welcome To The Situation’s tinkering alt-rock erupts to full blown catharsis within 90 seconds. It’s a lightning in a bottle version alluding to the album’s most stunning moment Sullenboy, which thematically morphs from coping with a depressive episode, to finding light in family love, while still remaining vulnerable to the impact that actions can have on each other. The “I feel the fear I will repeat” refrain is the singer’s most memorable hold of vocal melodies, with its final note cadence being saddening and beautiful in tandem. It’s not so cheery, but despite death’s inevitable hand coming for us all, it doesn’t detract from the idea of filling life with abundance, and there’s a solemn back-and-forth musically between the happiness and sadness of it all.

That dichotomy fits perfectly with the band’s overarching ethos. Flynn praises the punk scene he’s grown up in (True Hardcore (II)) alongside his history teacher day job, describing it as “the perfect job to have for an artist’s life”. And in self-referencing his own past lyrical passages, and seeking inspiration from Alex G, philosopher Lucretius, author Jean Améry and perhaps late Cranberries lead singer Dolores O’Riordan (the self-confessed Queen Of Limerick), building a larger, experienced picture from both inner and outer viewpoints still struggles to find definitive answers around death, with Going to Die battling the most with that overarching concept. While the repeated “see you on the other side, I know I will” outro rekindles with lost loved ones, “but I don’t wanna die” chants from a darkened background. It marks a stunning conclusion of conflicted headspace, where the only thing that’s certain is death itself.

No matter what feelings of loss, comfort and unease come, there’s joy in expressing it. Fiddlehead have managed that once again; by condensing complex highs and lows into another stunning effort of emotional-charged punk, the record not only gives a voice to untold difficulties, but rages through them with every morsel of power, precision, and purpose.

For fans of: Balance and Composure, Militarie Gun, Have Heart

‘Death Is Nothing To Us’ by Fiddlehead is released on 18th August on Run For Cover Records.

Words by Elliot Burr

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