Shihad are a band I’ve always meant to write about but never really got around to it. But now, seeing as they’ve recently released a new album and we’re feverishly trying to churn (oop, an unintentional in-joke for Shihad fans there) out album to be included in the annual round up of Albums Of The Year, it seems like a good time to finally do one.
I suppose I should do a little background on the band for those that aren’t familiar with them. Shihad are from New Zealand and formed in the late 80’s and they’ve had a few genre tweakings throughout their long career. They originally started as a Thrash Metal band but by the time their debut album Churn was released in 1993 they had morphed into a Fear Factory style militaristic Industrial Metal band. From then on the heaviness slackened off considerably and they went through bouts of Pop Punk, Radio Rock, Alternative Metal, Post Hardcore etc. The crucial thing about the genre hopping though is that it always seemed like progression and evolution of the band not a desperate clawing for fame. They always maintained an intrinsic Shihad sound which, I think, is an important thing.
Whilst they’re massive in New Zealand and Australia, they never really broke in the UK (or the US to my knowledge) which is a shame as they have dozens of classic songs, Jon Toogood is a talented singer with a distinctive voice and the band are all experienced and tight players. The fact they’ve had the same line up since their first album has helped that. They far outshine many a band to achieve success here. Years ago I only really knew of the name but not the music. It wasn’t until a trip to Australia in 2000, just after they released their fourth album The General Electric, that I paid any attention. They were hard to avoid there.
On their last album (Ignite 2010) they were headed in a direction that harked back to their earlier sound, like on Churn (1993) and Killjoy (1995) and FVEY sees a continuation of that.
It’s filled with bile and vitriol and is a much harder listen (depending on your point of view!) to the fluffy Radio Rock that was 2008’s Beautiful Machine. The songs are all based around looping, repetitive riffs that give it an almost mechanical sound, like the clanking of machines. There’s also plenty of melody and emotion in the songs too though. it gives them a humanity that offsets the harshness of the music. Lyrically a lot, in fact almost all, of the songs deal with one form of social injustice or another. I said there was plenty of emotion on FVEY but the prevailing emotion is Anger.
FVEY was produced by Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke who I would attribute the Angstiness of this album to, I couldn’t imagine him making something soft. Apparently another factor may be that he made them record the whole thing live in the studio with Jaz conducting. Part of this process can be seen in the FVEY video below. It definitely gives it a sense of rawness and urgency that might have otherwise been missed.
(L-R) Tom Larkin, Phil Knight, Jon Toogood, Karl Kippenberger
The opening song is the first single from the album, Think You’re So Free and it’s an aggressive, stomping introduction with a powering riff and infectious tune. The title track comes next and the name refers to Five Eyes, which is an Intelligence alliance between five countries (USA, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada). The is a little less harsh than Think You’re So Free but still rumbles along menacingly.
There’s more of the same to be had throughout the album. The Living Dead, Model Citizen, Grey Area and The Big Lie all mix melody with big clunking riffs and highlight a band spikier than they’ve been in years.
This must be the first album they’ve made with not a single ballad on it which is a surprising thought considering their last few albums. Song For No One and The Great Divide offer a slight reprieve as they’re somewhat more introspective than other songs here. They still aren’t remotely balladic though.
The final song is Cheap As which continues the trend of that which has gone before but after around four minutes, things pick up pace and the next three minutes are a sprint to the end of the song with Jon barking the line “It’s all kicking off!” repeatedly. It’s a thrilling finale to an exhausting album.
I’m glad to see the band have finally recovered the fire they’ve been stoking for a while now and I hope this album gets them some interest on this side of the world.
If I had any criticism it’s that, with the repetitiveness of the music and the fact there’s no let-up, it means the tracks tend to blur together sometimes and some pass by without realisation but I suppose if you want variety, try their other albums; this album is a statement and needed to be unrelenting.
7 out of 10 – This is good and well worth a check.
Best Track – The Living Dead
Listen to FVEY on Spotify HERE
Buy it from Amazon HERE
It's nice to see Jaz Coleman in this video too, dancing like a loon.