I’m no wine buff but if I ever feel the urge to get rat-arsed in an upper class, debonair sort of way, I usually plump for a bottle of something French. Why? Well, when it comes to the old grape juice, Pierre just seems to know his stuff. Wine is one of those products that carries with it a particular weight of expectation according to the country or region of the world from which it originates, and in this respect music is not all that different. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past three decades, you’ll no doubt be aware that if writing music to scare small children with were an Olympic sport, the Scandinavians would be reigning world champions. When I elected to review the eponymous debut album of Norway’s Fight the Fight, therefore, it was on the basis of no background research whatsoever, other than a cursory glance at their country of origin. Shoot me down in flames; it had been a long day.
Although Fight the Fight is their debut LP, the band have existed in one form or another for over a decade. Previously playing under the name Faenskap (something Google Translate solemnly insists means “fuck cabinet,” although I have doubts as to the veracity of this translation), the Oslo-based five-piece are a fairly straight up metalcore outfit. Now while I’m well aware the suffix “core” can induce a strong urge to throw oneself out of an upstairs window, the highlight of the band’s career thus far involved touring Europe in support of Satyricon, so surely they can’t be all bad, right?
Well, to be brutally honest, they aren’t great. Being a glass-half-full kind of guy, though, let’s start with a positive: at least the record sounds nice. Granted, the dynamic range is a bit naff, but as a complete production, it’s full-blooded and meaty. Where it flops, though, is in the quality of the songwriting on offer. While opening tracks “Fight the Fight” and “The Edge” are perfectly enjoyable, albeit in a simplistic kind of way, aside from the satisfyingly headbangable verse sections of “Patient Zero,” there is very little else that sticks in the memory or provides the listener with any real impetus to return to the record in the future.
Metalcore is a much-maligned genre—I doubt anyone on here really needs me to point this out—but when it’s executed well it can be both fun and fulfilling. When one considers the bands that sit atop the genre’s food chain, however, they all have three things in common: they showcase quality musicianship, their songwriting and composition are engaging and their records are memorable and enduring. None of these can really be said to apply in the case of Fight the Fight. While individual band members are perfectly competent when it comes to fulfilling the requirements of their respective roles—three and four note riffs are par for the course here—at no point are their skills ever enough to make the listener’s jaw hit the floor. When coupled with a vocal performance from frontman Lars Vegas that feels more like a recital than anything overtly rousing or primal, my overriding impression of Fight the Fight is an album written for radio airplay. I may be wide of the mark and doing the band a huge disservice here, but that’s the kind of vibe it gives off, and this doesn’t sit well with me at all; it lends the record a vapid, artificial air that is simply impossible to get around.
When it all boils down to it, the highest praise I can really accord Fight the Fight’s debut LP is that it is not actively objectionable, however, it rarely achieves anything that hasn’t already been done a hundred times better by metalcore’s elite crowd. Were it all I was permitted to listen to for the rest of 2017, I would hardly be gouging my eardrums out with a corkscrew, but I would be pretty dejected all the same. Everything that makes music so wondrously life-affirming—be it the passion, the innovation, the skill or simply the sheer cathartic joy it can invoke—is conspicuously absent here, and I don’t know about anyone else, but to me that just seems a little bit sad.