Faced With Rage, released within the ever-expanding Kscope catalogue, sees drummer Tom Price and guitarist Gavin Bushell added to the Godsticks line-up, and is a vast improvement on the band’s previous work. It’s a tight, rhythmic slab of hard rock, and one of the best-produced albums of the year.
Producer James Laughrey deserves credit for ensuring that everything about Faced With Rage sounds amazing. The guitars pull off a thick classic hard rock tone – this album is populated by proggy and crunchy rhythms, played tightly through shifting time signatures – while the drums are punchy and support the band well. Especially the cymbal work is just incredible. All of this is clear, easily discernible, and coherent, despite many different parts being played simultaneously at times. The producers have done an incredible job in taking this fast and technical music and making sure that we can hear all of it.
It’s not just the instrumentation that hits the right tone. Darren Charles has an incredible clean voice, which excels when pushed out with force from the diaphragm – see “Everdrive” in particular for his voice being shown off both on its own and being able to compete with walls of heavy guitar and bass without seeming any weaker for it. It’s strong, mature, and never feels strained. There’s a couple of drawbacks to this, though, the main one being that Charles’ softer singing (for example on “We Are Leaving” and “Fame and Silence”) can sometimes lack diction, and therefore slur. Other than that, he – and indeed Godsticks as a whole – stick with the same kind of tone for the whole album, meaning that Faced With Rage does not seem to show the whole range of his voice. For the vast majority of the album, however, even if it is partly because he knows his strengths and sticks religiously to them, Charles shows that he has one of the best clean voices in hard rock at the moment. If nothing else, this album is worth checking out to hear his vibrato!
The fantastic sounds aren’t the only thing that impresses on Faced With Rage, even though the previous paragraphs might have lead you to believe otherwise; the music played is certainly worth sticking around for. It’s already been implied that this is an album in which rhythm dominates – each song is structured around heavy guitar- and bass riffs, with doses of palm muting driving even the vocals to fit around them. Godsticks have a habit of putting cleaner staccato counter-rhythms over these riffs, providing detail, complexity, and intrigue. At times, this turns into impressive shred dotted in between the grooves. For the best guitar playing on the album, see “Angry Concern”, the bridge of which breaks from fast chromatics into a solo section which manages to feel natural over non-standard time signatures, and which boasts a rhythm section-backing that would be seriously impressive on its own.
Despite the diverse thrills and whistles that this album boasts – it’s not being referred to as their most well-rounded output to date for no reason – we can still reduce why you’d want to listen to it down to one feature, and that’s the band stomping around in different time signatures, majestically creating a compulsion to head-bang while thoroughly confusing any attempts to do so at the same time. “Guilt” starts the album off as it will continue, immediately plummeting into what might be a mid-song breakdown for any other band, before opening up into the kind of stodgy riffs of which I’ve already noted amazement that Charles has found a way to sing around.
This means that occasionally, you feel like you’re playing a waiting game – humouring the band before they burst into another section of the groove-based riffing they do so well. On the song after “Guilt”, “Hard to Face”, it’s sometimes tempting to skip the first 30 seconds of harmonics and get straight into it. There are two reasons for this, the first one being a minor tonal issue: the album is hard, heavy, and angry, and some of the attempts at putting in diversity, perhaps in the name of reflectiveness or introspection, seem to have been consciously added rather than coming straight from the heart. The second is simply that the heavier parts are so good. The impatience to getting to them isn’t really a slight on the introductions to songs or their lighter breaks at all – I think that I’d be praising them if they were on any other album – but rather that the band reaches such heights elsewhere, you just can’t wait to get to them.
That isn’t to say that the band don’t enjoyably manage light and shade; in the very same song, the breaks of pure bass are welcome, and the choruses throughout the whole of Faced With Rage are stellar, whether or not they are accompanied by technical guitars (the chorus of “Open Your Eyes” is an excellent example of what can happen when the band does accompany them thusly, though). And songs like “Revere”, effectively a ballad with it’s just-broken-up guitars, ambient delays, and aforementioned softly slurred singing, don’t feel like filler for the next step on a distortion pedal.
Faced With Rage is one of my favourite albums of the year so far – it’s one of those special combinations of great production and great music. It doesn’t try to be something it’s not; there aren’t the stereotypical ‘modern metal’ pretences at play here (although a band with Godsticks‘ talent could certainly pull them off), but rather some lush classic tones being played in an original and genuinely enjoyable way. Faced With Rage is muscular, heavy, and worth your time.
Notable Tracks: “Everdrive”; “Guilt”; “We Are Leaving”
FFO: Porcupine Tree, The Pineapple Thief, Alter Bridge (yes really, I can hear it)