THEM – Fear City (Album Review)

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Terror strikes at the dawn of the 80s.

Former King Diamond/Mercyful Fate tribute band turned spinoff homage band Them has been a fairly steady presence for the past 7 years, since their 2016 debut “Sweet Hollow” ushered in another outfit seeking to revive the horror story approach to heavy metal during the extended studio hiatus of both aforementioned iconic 80s trailblazers. Yet from the beginning mastermind and lead vocalist of old time New York thrash metal outfit Coldsteel, namely Troy Norr, has sought to distinguish his latter day brainchild from the likes of Portrait, Attic, and In Solitude by opting for a faster, thrashing variation on the older heavy metal approach of yesteryear, all the while maintaining a clear horror aesthetic by opting to have each album released under the Them moniker in close proximity to Halloween. 2022’s “Fear City” stands as the fourth installment in Norr‘s ongoing conceptual storytelling vision, upping the ante in nearly every respect while also bringing his one-eyed, ghoulish and recurring protagonist into a very different time and place.

Set in what is assumedly the early 1980s in the crime-plagued streets of The Big Apple based on the story bits provided via brief interludes, the vengeful and neutrally aligned principle character KK has come back to take vengeance upon the descendants of those who wronged him in the past. As with prior installments of this saga, the musical content opts for an extremely melodic and methodical structure that mirrors the symmetry and dark aesthetic of King Diamond‘s seminal 1980s albums, then proceeds to inject a heavy amount of neck-destroying thrash elements that draw upon the more violent side of the Teutonic sound (think “Abigail” meets Destruction’s “The Antichrist”) and further increases the technical factor. Norr‘s vocals tend to be less falsetto-happy then that of King Diamond and mixes in a more gruff-driven element and a heighten interplay of gang chorus elements, while the dueling guitar work of Markus Ullrich and Markus Johansson land somewhere between LaRocque and Malmsteen, further aided by a near equally busy showing by keyboardist Richie Siebel.

“Fear City” Album Artwork

The general order of the day for this LP is a foray of highly kinetic, three to four minute long bangers that manage to pack in enough vocal and guitar gymnastics to fit an ode of double the length, all the while avoiding excess and being highly memorable despite the often rambling lyrical narrative and theatrical atmosphere. The crazed riff work that adorns the opening cruiser “Flight Of The Concorde” could almost be mistaken for an amped up homage to Riot‘s “Thundersteel”, while the equally frenetic yet more bottom-heavy “Welcome To Fear City” often flirts with death metal territory due to an utterly insane drum performance by newly recruited Death Dealer and former Into Eternity drummer Steve Bolognese. Blurring lead guitar passages and raging ghost choirs permeate the extreme thrashing mayhem of “Death On The Downtown Metro” and “The Deconsecrated House Of Sin”, yet the song that manages to steal the show is the towering 9 minute musical narrative “The Crossing Of Hellgate Bridge”, which hurls everything at the prospective listener but the kitchen sink.

To date, this is the strongest and most advanced piece of conceptual mastery to come out of the Them brand, and barring the production getting a bit hazy at times due to the cacophony of melodies and counter-melodies overlapping at key transition points while being drenched in ultra-busy guitar and drum work, it’s a perfect package that takes all of the best elements of what King Diamond and Mercyful Fate started and casts it in a new ominous light. It’s sheer complexity gives it a level of staying power that will more than carry this outfit’s audience through the next two years until a further chapter in KK‘s seemingly unending quest for vengeance is revealed, and while the voiceover segments have a dated and slightly corny character to them, the twists in the story that come into focus are sure to keep every avid following hooked. No matter what crafts his hypocritical adversaries might devise, you just can’t keep a good ghoul down, and KK‘s stories will hopefully prove far from finished.

Order the Fear City” album HERE,

Released By: SPV/Steamhammer
Release Date: October 28th, 2022
Genre: Heavy Metal / Power Thrash Metal

Musicians:

  • Troy Norr (AKA KK Fossor) / Vocals
  • Alexander Palma / Bass
  • Markus Ullrich / Guitars
  • Markus Johansson / Guitars
  • Richie Siebel / Keyboards
  • Steve Bolognese / Drums

“Fear City” Track-listing:

  1. Excito 1:48
  2. Flight of the Concorde 3:48
  3. Fear City 4:12
  4. Retro 54 4:54
  5. An Ear for the Action 0:29
  6. Graffiti Park 4:06
  7. 191st Street 5:30
  8. Home Stretch 0:54
  9. The Crossing of Hellgate Bridge 9:19
  10. Death on the Downtown Metro 3:42
  11. Stay Tuned… 0:23
  12. A Most Violent Year 0:57
  13. The Deconsecrated House of Sin 3:43
  14. In the 11th Hour 3:17

8.9 Excellent

Taking their cinematic approach to conceptual storytelling into a very different setting, THEM bring their own blend of King Diamond and Mercyful Fate influences with a modern thrash metal edge into the seedy world of early 80s New York City

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 9
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