Rarely has a single album done as much for its creator as 2021's Eternal Blue did for Canadian metalcore group Spiritbox. Granted, their initial EPs— 2017's Spiritbox and 2019's Singles Collection—helped them gain traction; however, it was their debut full-length collection (which earned a perfect score from us) that quickly turned them into a household name within the genre. Expectedly, they double down on what's always worked best with The Fear of Fear, an economical and endlessly appealing six-song sequence that highlights the best of Spiritbox's brutal and beautiful personas.
The group's first release since touring bassist Josh Gilbert became the official replacement for Bill Crook, The Fear of Fear very much feels like the continuation of Eternal Blue (and 2022's Rotoscope EP). As they describe, it "encapsulates each facet of the Spiritbox spectrum. From glacial and emotive to earth-shatteringly heavy, each track provides a further dive into the sonic world-building of one of the most exciting bands to emerge from heavy music in recent years."
For sure, it focuses entirely on perfecting the gang's tried-and-true formula (rather than pushing any needles forward), but it's hard to complain when it's pulled off so well.
Naturally, the 25-minute sequence packs quite a punch, with opener "Cellar Door" ranking as perhaps their heaviest song yet. Following a brief but effectively moody prelude, instrumentalists Gilbert, Zev Rosenberg (drums), and Mike Stringer (guitar) team-up for classic Spiritbox djent/alternative metal mayhem. Before long, singer Courtney LaPlante continues to rival virtually all of her ferocious peers with her trademark belligerent vocals and lyrics ("Transform my death into a conduit / This body separate from the fear of fear / Inside a coping mechanism of monotony / I will destroy the double vision that I was forced to leave").
It's a relentlessly nuanced and gripping display of demonic precision that, thankfully, is carried through to the equally hostile (if also more adventurous and atmospheric) "Angel Eyes." Specifically, its near-ceaseless vehemence is periodically offset by digital percussion and other cryptically calming interludes, making it a true whirlwind of dynamic shifts from start to finish. Although it's not as guttural, follow-up "The Void" strikes a fine balance between that aggression and Spiritbox's angelic—if not outright poppy—tendencies.
However familiar The Fear of Fear may be, there's no question that it finds Spiritbox operating at the top of their game. Sure, its truncated duration prevents it from feeling as epic and substantial as Eternal Blue, but its masterful sequencing and subtle segues still provide plenty of enticing and inventive connective tissues. Above all else, it offers more of what fans already love about the quartet while alluding to just how impactful and poised their second LP will be whenever it arrives.