In Better/Worse, the San Bernardino rock band Spirit Fangs sinks their teeth into what may be the much-needed alteration they’ve unconsciously been looking for. With a helping hand from Silver Snakes‘ lead vocalist Alex Estrada, who produced the album, they steer away from their prior, more “upbeat,” records Read My Palm, Revenant and their self-titled EP Spirit Fangs as they rely on heavy vocals, strong guitar chords, and ear-molesting drum lines.
The sound is somewhat original and even refreshing–though I swear lead vocalist Diego Napole borrowed Mewithoutyou front man Aaron Weiss’ delivery in the latter half of “Lazy Lovers.” And, in a little over 20 minutes, the group manages to effortlessly produce a fresher approach, yet maintain hints of the sound their fans are accustomed to.
Rhythmic claps, chants, tambourines, and strong drums open Better/Worse with “The Last One’s Left.” The band dresses your bucky naked imagination with animal cloth and fittingly garnishes you with tribal face paint as you are transported to an out-of-this-worldy place. Caution! You may feel the need to wildly perform a rain dance around a campfire during the opening build up. On second thought, maybe that’s just me. And Napole’s crafty transitions from coarse vocals, singing, and then to screaming appropriately set high standards for what’s to follow.
The band immediately strips you of your native dress in exchange for denim jeans, a t-shirt, and a tattered pair of sneakers in “.22.” I am reminded of Bleeding Kansas with a touch of Bane as the track takes you on an adrenaline-infused ride lead by ferocious wails and an equally harsh combination of drums and guitars.
Better/Worse continues on an aggressive path of destruction until it reaches “Lazy Lovers,” a song that allows you to gasp for air—even if only for a moment. Though the track is enjoyable–after several listens at least–it may lose you midway as it painfully guides you through an overdone “Oh” chant followed by a forced and painful-to-hear vocal solo.
Spirit Fangs wraps up the record on a solemn note with “Always/Never,” a well-produced, yet out-of-place song. Something felt odd about wanting to two-step throughout the majority of the album only to feel melancholy as the seconds ticked away on the final piece. Do not, however, feel deterred from this track. The lyrics are strong, the delivery is effortless, and the transitions are seamless.
Better/Worse pries your ear holes wide open and fills them with an unfiltered angst that Spirit Fangs lacked before. The album is good, but not great for it feels like it is missing a piece or two from a puzzle that is nearly complete. In the end, the album is an enjoyable listen and just may be what Spirit Fangs needs to break them away from rock mediocrity. So don’t be a cheap Charlie! Their CD is only five bucks and it’s worth the listen. Get it here.
Read the review of their last EP Spirit Fangs here
Songs to look out for: “The Last Ones Left” and “.22”