It has been five years, but the wait is finally over: metalcore legends Phinehas are back with their highly-anticipated sixth full-length album, The Fire Itself. With nearly an entirely new lineup, consisting of the intricate shredding of Daniel Gailey, the powerhouse drumming of Isaiah Perez, and the consistently brutal vocals of Sean McCulloch, this band clearly had their sights set on a strong comeback with The Fire Itself. When the first single, “In the Night,” was released, fans were instantly hooked by the machine gun rhythms and gripping lyrics. It was a display that the band had only gotten stronger over the past five years.
As far as a metalcore album goes, it is perhaps not entirely groundbreaking in terms of something that’s not been heard before. However, The Fire Itself is such pure metalcore, done so breathtakingly immaculately, that it doesn’t even need to innovate. The guitars are as intricate as Phinehas has ever written, and the breakdowns (and there are plenty) are some of their most complex. Solos and perfectly placed leads abound, alongside the pounding assault from the drums. The overall sound of the album is simultaneously the heaviest and most melodic that Phinehas has ever been: the heavier moments are heavier than they’ve been, and the same is true of the melodies used.
There are many themes covered within the runtime of this album, ranging from mental health and the loss of one’s dreams (“War You Know,” “Severed by Self Betrayal” and “Dream Thief” respectively) to consistency and strength in faith (“In the Night” and “Defining Moments”), as well as hypocrisy (“Holy Coward”). In “Defining Moments,” specifically, McCulloch writes about faith being about more than just something we say we have: it is something that encompasses all of life.
“You have something to give, not just to take…
Whether these words will be scars or written on your heart
you have a choice to make…
Faith is more than just leaving when every second is spent in pain…
Faith is more than a crutch for when you falter.“
Picking just one track as the standout is nearly impossible, as every song fits so well into this album without ever feeling repetitive. If there was one that stands out, however, it would have to be “The Storm In Me.” It is the only song that falls under ballad territory on the album, and its placement and composition is spectacular. It provides just enough of a respite from the onslaught that is the rest of the album, so when the final two tracks kick in, listeners are anticipating a strong finish. This is purely because of the structure of “The Storm In Me,” with a slow build that eventually explodes in emotional weight and powerfully matched instrumentation. When McCulloch sings “I’m not strong enough to calm the storm in me,” there’s no need to wonder what one should feel. This track is a bright light of beautiful surrender amidst a chaotic assault on the senses.
Clearly, five years has done nothing to slow the momentum of Phinehas. It’s not hard to see why The Fire Itself has already made such a huge impact. Hopefully, the wait for more work won’t be as long— but even if it is, fans can trust that it will be worth it.