From the instant that opening track Think You’re So Free chugs to life, it’s clear that New Zealand’s premiere alternative-metal group Shihad has still got its edge almost thirty years since its inception. This crunching anthem catches the ear with an excellent hook while vocalist John Toogood rails against some of the more oppressive tenets of modern society. This is followed by the title track, which shares many similarities with the previous track and is almost overshadowed as a result. Despite that, it still proves to be a good track with a great hook anyway.
As evidenced by its title, The Big Lie is another song critiquing societal flaws, specifically that familiar topic of corporations that aim to deceive and manipulate human civilization. It’s certainly a popular topic with contemporary alt-metal groups and Shihad’s lyrical take on it works just fine, though it does invite comparisons to English prog-metal outfit Porcupine Tree. Grey Area marks the point at which the band really starts to repeat itself thematically, though the galloping rhythms on display are a highlight.
The Living Dead emphasises the lighter side of Shihad’s melodies with a relatively polished sound evident in its chorus, but still chugs and churns as one of their songs should. Song for No One is a passable number with drop-tuned guitars and soaring vocals that stand out during the chorus.
The Great Divide changes things up with a basic, slightly swaggering rhythm that veers close to pub-rock before grounding itself back in the group’s signature style and eventually launching into an impressive groove during its second half. Model Citizen also cuts to the chase straight away and puts out another decent but not overly impressive number. Wasted in the West constantly changes its rhythm to accommodate elements of post-punk and industrial rock, inviting favourable comparisons to long-running post-punk outfit Killing Joke.
Love’s Long Shadow is another moody number accentuated by a decent chorus but ultimately one of the album’s weaker tracks, while the epic closing track Cheap As alternately stomps and slithers through one’s ears and once again includes anti-corporate rhetoric in its extremely sardonic lyrics and definitely becomes one of the best tracks on the album, if not the best.
It seems as if there’s a trend among hard-rock bands these days to write lyrics filled with criticisms of contemporary society and the institutions that seem to have total control over it. FVEY is no exception, but Shihad handles the lyrics well and combines them with some very solid (if a little derivative and repetitive) rock music. Their longer songs manage to justify their length and there’s hardly a weak spot here. The band members generally know what they’re doing and it shows for the most part. If you like your music to be more than a little incisive, consider this recommended.