Fallen Fate are one of the newer metal bands to appear after the new millennium began. The cavalcade of heavy metal bands from the UK meant that metal was once again empowered. The thrash world mixed death metal and punk for metalcore to rise, and Fallen Fate were ready to plow their way down the aisle and spread their dark, heavy tracks to the people. Into the Black is Fallen Fate’s latest, a concept album with a gothic edge. Sadly, despite a creepy concept, Fallen Fate rarely articulate their story coherently, leaving a stripped-down album that doesn’t rise or fall enough to be dynamic or interesting.
Into the Black is a concept album about Vespa, a young girl who denounced faith in God early in life. Over time, Vespa is possessed by a demonic presence, who takes control of her life and kills her family, ultimately killing Vespa. The concept is something ripped right from one of those modern exorcism movies that get released every year like The Conjuring or The Possession, and while Fallen Fate tend to go a bit deeper than the films that inspire Into the Black, the story is still loose and the music doesn’t do much to present that story in a very articulate or cinematic manner. The band also intentionally leaves the story untied. By not explicitly detailing what exactly is controlling Vespa, the band wants to leave the interpretation to the listener: as to whether Vespa is truly possessed by evil or if her affliction is a sort of divine punishment for not following a faithful life. While leaving an idea open to interpretation isn’t bad per se, announcing that debate within the concept takes a ton of that fun in digging deeper and understanding the concept away. It’s like a standup comedian having to explain why their joke is funny after telling it.
Musically, Fallen Fate stay true to the melodic death metal mantra established by contemporary metal bands like As I Lay Dying and Lamb of God: brutal, guttural vocals with thrash metal musicianship, and while that’s not necessarily bad, Into the Black is certain to leave something to be desired. Vocalist Lee Skinner produces rough vocals throughout the entire album, so it already has its share of limitations. Rough vocalists, due to their lack of melody, are reliant on rhythm to stay interesting and Skinner very rarely experiments with his delivery. The darker, more ominous background vocals in songs like “I Welcome the Dead” and closer “Vespa” are really the only places where the vocals keep things fresh. They add atmosphere and a sense of presence, like something is watching from afar, but they are rarely used and their impact doesn’t give the album much personality beyond their immediate location in the track.
The musicianship, sadly, stays within its own circle as well. The guitar solos crank up the energy on occasion, but to compliment the creepy-as-hell subject matter, speed and melodic creativity isn’t the name of the game. The heavy rhythm section and low-tuned melodies are clearly dark (which is appropriate for an album about religious/sacrilegious conflict). The gothic tones and church-choir atmosphere are nice as well; it’s just a shame that they can’t shine brighter alongside Piers Donno-Fuller’s guitars. And the guitars are really good. “Last Rites” and (once again) “Vespa” are amazing examples of Donno-Fuller’s axemanship. The blend of ascendant, almost angelic solos with the crunching and falling riffs signify Vespa’s push-pull story of good and evil. It’s here where Fallen Fate manage to really paint a picture and tell a story.
Into the Black is dark, and frankly, it should be. It’s a concept album about otherworldly possession, but a good concept album knows that music and story should be entwined. You are telling a story through your music. Fallen Fate have trouble telling that story: instead of some deep narrative, the constantly dark tone sounds more like a one-act play that goes much longer than it should. There are no striking moments, no left turns to speak of and nowhere to really get the guts of their narrative out in front. Virtuosity clearly has a place in modern thrash/metalcore, but it’s how that musicianship is organized that makes Into the Black so underwhelming. Fallen Fate try to tell a story, but Into the Black only provides a setting. A setting does not a story make.