I know what you’re thinking. Look at the band name, the political statement of an album title, the nu-metal style album cover, the Emmure-esque macho song titles, and the fact that it’s metalcore. I mean, first impressions?1 Oh boy, there’s gonna be some meathead threatening to fight someone after the concert after pumping himself up on Bud Lite, jello shots, and Five Finger Death Punch. First impressions? This is an album of tough-guy anthems to be used while lifting and taking selfies in the gym mirror.2 It looks like nu-metal rap sections a la Frankie Palmeri, breakdowns galore, minor technical skill, and above all, something to get the bros swirling in the pit. So, the question of the day is: does Kause 4 Konflikt confirm these stereotypes?
Fornication Under Control of King3 is this French quintet’s second full-length since forming in 2010, boasting an in-your-face politically defiant style of metalcore. So after an intro track, “Less One,” that at first seemed to confirm the mindless pummeling in store, we’re introduced to something beyond the stereotypes. “You Sign for It” kicks open the gates with a steel-toed boot in the speedy technical intro, a rip-roarin’ “oooh yeeeeaaaaah!” roar, and stupid catchy riffs. With my neck bones aching, I knew I found something different. K4K‘s metalcore-based style blessedly forsakes the expectations and instead utilizes thrash speed, hardcore attitude, and groove’s badass swagger in a fun album that more than fits the bill if you need a sonic concussion, even if it is hindered by its own seriousness.
The power of Fornication Under Control of King lies in its brevity. In many ways, this album feels more like grind than metalcore, as it hits hard and fast without much reprieve. As such, the best tracks are those who put the pedal to the metal and pummel your brain with as many blazing riffs as they can cram into a three-and-a-half-minute time span. Shape-shifting vocals ranging from We Were Gentlemen‘s Matt Tarpey-esque husky barks to The Ocean‘s Robin Staps-worshiping beefy growls enhance this already relentless songwriting, adding a dimension of chaos and mania. Their hardcore attitude recalls a New York style in groups like Irate and Stray from the Path in its grittier metalcore sound, amped tempo, and muscular gruffness, while its thrash infusion recalls Maelstrom Aeterna in galloping shred. Tracks like single “God Pretends” and “Target” offer dope-ass pummeling riff after dope-ass pummeling riff with thrashy speed and focus on the relentless, while “Nothing for No One” and “Rehab” channel groove to nearly Black Breathian death ‘n roll proportions. Album highlights also showcase the benefits of the album’s production, as shredding solos and pinch harmonics soar beautifully above the energetic and crunchy riffs.
What keeps K4K from truly soaring with Fornication… is a few awkward tricks that derail otherwise solid tracks. Cuts like “Scapegoat,” “You Sign for It,” and “Ain’t Give a Shit” feature spoken word samples like “I’m no fucking scapegoat” and heavy-handed speech samples detailing marginalization and political abuse. While the topic is certainly relevant, it derails the fun atmosphere of otherwise extremely solid tracks. While they thankfully avoid radio-friendly “Risecore” trends or Emmure-esque breakdown-centrism in favor of thrashy riffs and hardcore attitude, it can lead to same-sounding songs, such as the similar riffs of “You Sign for It,” “Ain’t Give a Shit,” and “Scapegoat” that fail to truly distinguish. Easily the most tedious track here is “Jawbreaker,” which slows the tempo down to attempt a beatdown hardcore track led by gang chants. Because of its starkly different style, it feels lethargic compared to its predecessors and the gang vocals feel forced.
All negatives aside, Kause 4 Konflikt honestly surprised me. I went into this album with expectations of Emmure worship and nu-metal bad
assery, but I heard an album with impressive technical proficiency, unrelenting energy, and refreshing simplicity. Fornication Under Control of King is by no means a game-changer, and it revels in its beatdown focus to a concussive effect, but that’s definitely okay. It never overstays its welcome and never lets its foot off the gas, feeling invigorating instead of exhausting. My first impressions were low, I admit, but FUCK ended up being one of the first biggest surprises of the year.