Last time I saw Shihad play was on Boxing Day a few years back in Lower Hutt – the eternal dwelling place of the bogan. The band played a few songs from each of their releases in chronological sequence, starting with their début EP Devolve, and concluding with their most recent album, Ignite. It was a good cross-section of their history, showcasing their sound as it evolved from the speed metal of their formative days through to the more radio-friendly songs of recent years. The downside to this was that as the show progressed it became clear that Shihad’s later releases pale in comparison to their more aggressive early works. In my opinion Shihad had peaked with The General Electric.
This is why FVEY (pronounced Five Eyes) makes me so happy. It’s a nod to Churn and Killjoy, but with the use of production and mastering technologies 20 years more advanced. Listening to the album teaser was enough to make my hairs stand on end. Being able to the blast the finished product on 180 gram vinyl is a glorious experience.
No doubt Jaz Coleman played a part in this. His influence was unmistakable in the brutal industrial metal that was Churn, and lingering traces could still be felt in the raw anger of Killjoy. And once again the Killing Joke singer has returned to the producer’s chair to impart his wisdom. This record was one of the last to be recorded at Coleman’s York Street studios, allowing the band good use of one of New Zealand’s premium recording studios.
Coleman can still be heard in this record, both musically and thematically. Title tack ‘FVEY’ sounds like it could comfortably be part of Killing Joke’s 2010 release Absolute Dissent, and some of Jon Toogood’s lyrics resemble those of the songs on Killing Joke’s MMXII. Anger, distrust of the authorities and conspiracy theories seem to be common themes throughout.
It’s raw but at the same time clean. They’ve captured the heaviness without muddy distortion. Not an easy feat, seeing as how the guitars are drop-tuned so ridiculously low. Frontman Jon Toogood has described the record as “intense” and “blistering”. He’s not wrong.
Where did the band re-discover this energy and determination? The album title FVEY points towards paranoia over our international spy network. Maybe something to do with a fat German millionaire buying off our politicians? No doubt Shihad are riled up about various social injustices, and FVEY is the creative by-product of these feelings.
I’ve always loved Shihad. I own every album and watch them live every time they come to town. It was always a given that I’d be buying FVEY. But this time round I feel safe recommending this album to my friends, not something I could have said about the band’s recent outputs like Ignite or Beautiful Machine.
Killjoy-era Shihad is back in form. And with an accompanying tour promised; I find this very exciting.