There are times, listening to FVEY, where you will probably question whether or not you are listening to a Shihad album. It's a gritty, dark, industrial grind, largely devoid of brightness. Even the distinctive guitar tone sounds different - lower, thicker, and missing the light/dark contrasts that historically populated even the heavier Shihad tracks like The General Electric, Lead or Follow and All the Young Fascists.
Gone, also, are the big hooks that were so memorable on Home Again, Pacifier and Run. In fact, there's points where Jon Toogood's voice is about the only thing that'll remind you that, yes, this is still Shihad.
Overall, FVEY is probably the darkest, heaviest album Shihad have produced, even more so than Love is the New Hate. But whereas that album managed to be memorable by taking some established traits and dialling them up big-time, it was still quintessentially Shihad - tracks like Alive, All the Young Fascists and Big Future still had those great, soaring choruses which almost worked even better when contrasted with the pummelling verse riffs.
And I'd have to admit that, at this point, I'm struggling to see what all the fuss is about - and that's coming from someone who is a long-time Shihad fan, owns all the albums, and has seen them live more times than I can remember.
FVEY starts off really strongly. Think You're So Free is a genuine anthem, although not in the traditional Shihad form - it's got the pummelling industrial vibe that pervades most of the album, but makes it really catchy by counterbalancing it with some great vocal hooks, and clever use of Tom Larkin's drumming to create some contrast. It's followed up by FVEY which has a pulsing, seething main refrain that is bound to create mosh-pit mayhem.
And after that? Well, to be brutally honest, not much. There's a series of largely mid-tempo numbers that kinda blur into one another, with only the chilly-but-not-hopeless Song For No One and the loping groove of Love's Long Shadow really standing out. It's not that any of the rest is particularly bad, it's just all a bit lifeless and sterile.
Fortunately closing track Cheap As sends things out with a very serious bang, courtesy of a brilliant, lurching riff, and a savage 'Cheap! Cheap as fuck!' vocal refrain.
Lyrically the anti-corporate, anti-government agenda that pervades the album just gets tired after a while. It works well on a few songs (certainly the first and last tracks), but by the end of the album it's starting to feel like Jon Toogood is just railing against everything indiscriminately.
I really wanted to be blown away by FVEY but ultimately I just can't find more than a handful of tracks that really stand out. Credit to Shihad for shifting their creative direction so bravely at this point in their career, but FVEY just didn't do it for me.