Full of metal trademark tropes, Face to Face comes bolting out of the traps with No Holding Back – and as Ronseal would say, it does exactly what it says on the tin. It begins with a muted version of the mix, building into a half-time soundscape that introduces the coruscating vocal. Then in crashes the rest of the instrumentation.
A word or two about the vocals in this collection. Sean Farias is a vocalist that possesses that most unlikely of combinations (that seems to occur more regularly than you’d think within this genre): the ability to scream a topline with a frankly bewildering amount of power and then to have the sweetest of singing voices to provide an extraordinary juxtaposition for the listener to consider the material from. On the one hand, you have the energy, aggression, primal power and delivery that could melt your face off if you stood too close. And on the other you have melodic sweetness, the calm eye at the centre of the storm.
The lyrics, born of frustration, self-exorcism and a need to share perspective are delivered with the fury and visceral energy of a mouthpiece with something to say. Even when the smoothly sung sequences kick in, like during the first redemptive moment about a third of the way through Memories, the snarl can still be heard lurking just beneath the skin – some of the lines briefly start with the animal passion before morphing into the reflective vocal state. When these happen, the guitars are often performing spacious arpeggios, while the tight rhythm section marks out half-time.
All of the tracks feature extreme and extraordinary drum patterns; the expression and necessary virtuosity that’s behind the kick patterns, in particular, would give even the most seasoned drummer a serious workout. There are times when I’m put in mind of the works of Monuments (and that goes double for the vocal, too) or even the heavier moments of Porcupine Tree, who had the fluid skills of drummer Gavin Harrison at their beck and call.
Let’s look at some highlights, then.
‘You’re so fake, it’s driving me insane,’ is a litany of petulant rage that’s repeated with deliberate monotony over a large chunk of Hate. This kind of message seems to underpin the works of Face to Face to quite a large extent – the combative exploration of conflict or disagreements that’s going to be explored up close and personal – whether we like it or not.
Particular note should be made of the freeform nature of the astonishing Djust Kill Me Now, where free rein has been given to the knob-twiddler behind the desk. The instruments are put through all manner of ‘bitcrush’-ed effects to create delightfully playful and sonically-challenging sound sketch moments that reminded me of 8-bit video game soundtracks squeezed into the melting pot.
Then, on the all-too-short Uprising (featuring Joe Farias), we hear samples introduced to add a further dimension to the diatribes. And then suddenly we also get a guest vocal which (bizarrely) put me in mind of the poppier sound of 90s sensation The Offspring – albeit on a grumpier day!
I loved the use of discord on the violent-to-mellow stop-start of Our Revolution which put me in mind of the Evanescence classic Bring Me to Life – without the female vocals. This track features a collaboration with Oshie Bichar.
Rage can be limited and one-dimensional. What we have here is some evolution and some sensitivity. Face to Face may be a call-to-arms of sorts, but under the energy, there is some smart posturing and some pop nous.
Album closer, Dead and Gone declares, ‘this pain has no end in sight’. If the pain has managed to squeeze these 13 opulent tracks out of Mr Farias (particularly with his smart choice of some excellent collaborations), we can but hope that he doesn’t receive any relief any time soon.