2016 sees the return of Brighton’s Fear of Men with Fall Forever: the band’s second full length album, and the follow-up to their acclaimed 2014 debut, Loom. Fall Forever marks a bold departure for the three-piece – comprised of Jessica Weiss, Daniel Falvey and Michael Miles – an album that builds upon the melodicism and immediacy of Loom but takes it in a stark new direction, capturing the band pushing the limits of their instruments to adopt new and alien forms.
After extensively touring in support of Loom, the band decamped in the early months of 2015 to an outbuilding of a disused abattoir in rural Kent, England, to begin work on new material. A two-hour bus ride from their native Brighton – and a blackhole for cell signal – it served as a fitting environment for a band determined to strip their sound back to the bone and rebuild it to make an album that would, on their live return, “make the stage shake.” The resultant record sees the trio twisting together sounds and influences from a variety of genres to create their own vision of what constitutes dark and modern pop. Working with producer Tom Morris to gain clarity and presence, they focused on core sounds instead of layers, while still incorporating textures and details that can be discovered upon repeat listens.
Weiss went into the process of writingFall Foreverr with a desire to develop her own voice, rather than hiding behind metaphors and oblique references. The result, she says, is a “very personal and genuine record exploring where my life is at the moment,” covering a time that left her “questioning feelings of belonging and structures that commonly offer support and understanding.” A vocalist who has proved herself adept at conveying kaleidoscopes of emotions in just a few lines, Weiss juxtaposes feelings of independence and self-determination with rumination on reliance and intimacy. Fittingly, she calls Fall Forever a “love album,” but one that explores “emotional extremes of closeness and distance, love and violence.”
Equally, these contrasts are well reflected in the sonic palette of the album: cold electronics meet lush, breathing textures; frenetic post-punk drums shudder against undulating guitars that recall the fluidity of shoegaze while stripping it of that genre’s crutch of thick reverb, creating a more forceful and contemporary sound. Intent on looking forward, the band utilized modern effects pedals and technology to manipulate their traditional instruments into unique forms. Such an approach can be heard on ‘Until You’, where frozen guitar chords warp and twist to introduce the song before erupting into a distorted wall-of-sound chorus that hits with the punch of synthesizers but bristles with a human rawness that only guitars can bring.
It’s within these dichotomies that Fall Forever‘s greatest beauties often lie. The immediacy conjured by the trio across the album’s ten tracks can at once be seen as intimate or confrontational, echoing the “emotional extremes” examined by Weiss. In twisting together sounds and influences from a plethora of genres, Fear of Men have given life to a fresh vision; a dark and modern pop record that defies easy categorization, and marks their most immersive work to date.