There are a lot of words you can use to describe most Facedown Records bands, and somewhere in that list is the word "consistent," particularly when it comes to how fast they deliver new, quality material. And it was only a year and a half ago that we were introduced to one of Facedown's more recent signings, Those Who Fear. Their label debut Unholy Anger wasn't the strongest debut of 2013, but it showed potential for a much stronger follow-up. Does said follow-up, Death Sentence, deliver this stronger offering? The answer is a resounding...eh.
The 54-second track "Processed" leads off the album with some standard chugging and melds right into the first actual song, "Bruised;" they sound like they could be one track, with a somewhat similar rhythm. Unfortunately, the same could almost be said for the entirey of Death Sentence. It'd be a lie to say that each song carries the same rhythm, but there's nothing about any of the songs that really seems to stick out. Sure, there are some electronic scratches here and there, like in "Saturday Night Special," and "Death Sentence" even bears a lot of nu metal influence (a la Korn), but the majority is just your average, run-of-the-mill, mind-numbing hardcore with lots of chugging and monotone growls and screams.
The album does improve a little when you take a look at the lyrics. There are themes of escaping and forgetting your past as well as fighting for what you believe in (pretty standard for a hardcore album, but still important). Examples of the former can be found in "Bruised" and "The Pain I Feel" (the latter of which says "How will I escape this prison in which I find myself trapped once again? Oh God, free me from myself, I am my own worst enemy.") As for fighting for your beliefs, you need only look to "The First Amendment": "They're ignorant and they have no respect for me, they didn't care when they took my freedom of speech, they took our hope but we don't see it, we gave up now they lead us, I won't give another inch to their hypocrisy, I won't become another slave to their policies... My God, my faith, my freedom, something they'll never take from me."
Later in the album, there are a couple of songs that deal with the finality of death, but also the hope we have in our Savior to rescue us from the eternal death. I really like the lyrics in "Death Sentence" that say "I'm dead to this life, I'm dead to this world, I'm dead to all I've ever been, I'm dead to these lies, I'm dead to this sin, I've found a new life you'll never win, you're all afraid to die but why? I'm more afraid to live, we survive in Him." "86'd" follows and is a lot less hopeful, though not untruthful in its message: "Who have you forgotten? Who have you forsaken? Who have you left behind to die? Who have you forgotten? The names and faces of those you've left to die, this is an image burned inside my mind, this is a nightmare I cannot awake, this is a nightmare I won't let you forget." This serves to remind me of what God said to Ezekiel in Ezekiel 3: "'When I say unto the wicked, "Thou shalt surely die," and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.'" Those Who Fear tries to remind us all that we have more of a responsibility for the souls of others than we like to think sometimes.
Those Who Fear isn't a bad band, and they certainly show some strengths here and there, but overall, Death Sentence is largely forgettable. The lyrics are stronger than the music, so if you're the type that focuses more on the lyrics than anything else, you will probably enjoy this album more. Regardless, this is perhaps Facedown Records' weakest release in recent memory, so you may want to give it a listen on Spotify before deciding to make the full purchase. But if you liked Unholy Anger, you'll love Death Sentence as well.- Review date: 7/3/14, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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