Them – Fear City Review

It’s with great trepidation that I come to you this day. It’s 1980-something, and the world is coming apart. The Reagan administration has begun, John Lennon is dead, crime riddles the streets, and, by a freak toxic waste accident, KK Fossor is back. And back with a vengeance. After the death of his family and the destruction of the villainous Peter Thompson, we arrive at a new chapter of the story. On a mission to rid the world of Thompson’s bloodline, KK travels to the cesspool that is Fear City. As KK hunts down Thompson’s kin, he recruits his former assistant’s descendent and a hooker in hopes of defeating a kingpin and killing the minister. The result is a wild journey befitting a Broadway musical of The Warriors. Complete with silly radio DJ interludes and a race through New York City, the trio aims to locate its prey. Little do they know, they are the prey.

If you’re new to Them, they are the King Diamond love-child of yours truly. While the metal world questions my metal cred, I’m over here living my best life through this international outfit’s riffs and storylines. Filled with heavy-metal character, falsettos up the wazoo, and a story to match the songwriting, Fear City is a perfect Halloween treat. While it’s easy enough to follow The Warriors on a map as they run for Coney Island, Fear City is like the old Carmen Sandiego game—how the hell does she get around so quickly? As I follow the characters through the city (past Graffiti Park, the 191st tunnel, and Hell Gate Bridge) I haven’t a fucking clue how they arrived there and where they’re going. I hate to say it, but I think these fuckers are bad with directions. Regardless, the band has crafted a mighty album whose songs flow like the story that encapsulates it.

After a montage of 1980’s audio moments, the album kicks off in classic Them fashion. “Flight of the Concorde” isn’t as compelling as many of the other tracks on the album, but it sets the mood nicely. From here, we follow KK into New York City, and that’s where things get fun. “Retro 54” is an ’80s, key-driven beauty that finds KK searching the club for his new partner, Renaldo. It’s a hooking song with one of those choruses you just can’t get out of your head. But it’s nowhere as addictive as “191st Street” and “The Deconsecrated House of Sin.” The former finds our heroes running for their lives, and the latter follows them to their final destination. While you’ll be singing “One-hundred-and-nine… One-hundred-and-ninety-first… street!” in your sleep, what makes these two songs so memorable is their drive. Carefully crafted, it feels like you’re running, dodging, and fighting your way through the city. But “The Crossing of Hellgate Bridge” is the epic of the bunch. With thrashy licks, emotional interludes, and killer drum work, it’s a desperate battle across the river.

For better or worse, there are other moments on the record that are memorable. Renaldo’s NY accent, for one, is so bad that it makes my drunken Italian accent look good.1 And The Warriors radio DJ ripoff segments are head-in-hand ridiculous. But, when Valerie (the aforementioned whore) calls KK “toots,” I’m rolling on the floor with a side stitch. Song-wise, “Death on the Downtown Metro” is the lowest point on the album. It combines hardcore-esque vocal styles with extreme falsettos that would make King Diamond blush.2 I can tell the band was going for something new, but they went a little too hard.

That said, there are more positives than negatives here. Like Return to Hemmersmoor, Fear City is hella fun—both musically and story-wise. With each listen,3 there’s more to explore. And the songs become catchier with time instead of falling flat. Which is quite the feat considering Fear City is the longest album in the band’s repertoire. In the old days, I would have said Them is a King Diamond copycat. But, over the years, they’ve started to come into their own. Fear City is the band’s most ambitious album yet, and I’m pleased it works. If you enjoy a fun metal story and aren’t a pretentious prick like three-quarters of the AMG staff, Fear City is right for you.

Management Addendum (ov Steel): Due to certain unforeseen circumstances, Doc Grier will be taking a completely nonsuspicious “break” to deal with some injuries personal issues. I’m sure he’ll be back good as new after the rest and relaxation.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Steamhammer Records
Websites: them666.bandcamp.com4 | |
Releases Worldwide: October 28th, 2022

Show 4 footnotes

  1. No, yours is really, really terrible on a scale that offends all of Italy. – Steel
  2. And Doom screams out in pain.
  3. I’m on my thirty-second spin.
  4. Old stuff.
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