By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy
I have seen many metalcore groups that not only bring ferocity and brute force to their craft, but I have seen some that also do it in the name of the Lord. From Skillet to As I Lay Dying, Demon Hunter, P.O.D., Sleeping Giants, Wreckage of the Fall, and August Burns Red, these groups have brought Christian metalcore to the front stage to roaring audiences. Another Christian metal outfit that has caught my ears, thanks primarily to Rockaholic, is Los Angeles’ own Phinehas. Named after the high priest who was a part of the Israelites’ Exodus journey, Phinehas has been on their own journey since 2001 to bring holy metalcore to the masses. What really pulled me in was their ability to combine metalcore blast beats with thrash style riffs. It has been 4 years since they released their last album, Dark Flag, but they have reemerged with their fifth record (2nd under the Solid State label), The Fire Itself. Does the fire for saving metalheads still burn hot for Phinehas? Let us tune in and pray for a viciously righteous album.
The Fire Itself gets underway with “Eternally Apart.” Guitarist Daniel Gailey starts with a soft intro on the acoustic, and then at the 37-second mark, he goes postal with a virtuous riff. His solo breakdown towards the end is fine musicianship. Frontman Sean McCulloch spews misery and hope with his words. This man knows how to bring the screaming to higher level. The title track, “The Fire Itself,” is a tune that spells out freedom. McCulloch is like a hurricane, slamming into the lyrics with sheer force and brutality. Drummer Isaiah Perez goes on whamming rampage while bassist Bryce Kelley dazzles with his rhythmic beat. Gailey wails a solo full of desire, similar to something Marty Friedman would perform. “Thorns” begins with a slow tempo, then it intensives with Gailey rapid firing the riff. He also plays a harmonious beat that Perez and Kelley match with their instruments. McCulloch displays pain in his singing, and it brings glory to heavy metal and God. “War You Know” is full of bombastic playing as Gailey, Perez, and Kelley turn their instruments up to 11. This tune is a triumph for Phinehas as their passion ignites the fire of the Holy Spirit to end our struggles. The lyrics suggest internal struggle and turning to something to be rid of it. Who knew metalcore can be so deep? “Defining Moments” has a metalcore beat that is similar to Bullet for My Valentine’s stuff off Scream Aim Fire. McCulloch holds nothing back with his vocals, delivering an impactful and ferocious scream. Phinehas declares that love will help get one through life’s difficult obstacles.
We are halfway through The Fire Itself, and it is still burning. “Holy Coward” has this main riff rather reminds me of 80s glam rock off the Sunset Strip as well as Southern metalcore. Gailey does a splendid job on the main melodic riff and all the hooks. He also collaborates with guitar extraordinaire CJ Masciantonio, who slays the solo. This is a favorite of mine, and I am sure Phinehas fans will be crying out for it at future shows. “Dream Thief” is where Perez outdoes himself on the kit. The way he hammers at the snares and destroys the double pedal is amazing. This would make Dave Lombardo shiver, as chills would rush down his spine if he heard this. Gailey enhances his capabilities on the solo, which sharpens the song to a deadly slice. “The Storm in Me” shocked me by the direction they took this tune. Phinehas composed the closest thing to a power ballad. McCulloch gets personal with voice, delivering a flow that is raw and sensitive, but fret not, for he does return to screaming mode toward the end. This is a song full of heart. “Severed By Self Betrayal” returns the band to their signature sound. A typical metalcore tune that does not offer anything new, but it is fun to hear. The fire starts to die down as we reach the closer, “In The Night.” This is a scorcher of a song as McCulloch and Gailey reach the heavens with their fervent playing. Gailey saves his best solo for as he combines elements of progressive metal, djent and metalcore to bring the zeal out of his guitar. I love the experimentation they did for this song, and it was gutsy to close with it.
The Fire Itself proves that Phinehas still has a roaring fire inside of them. Intense metalcore and bleak lyrics can give a person hope; this album is a winner. They are very discreet with their Christianity, but the words they penned are a cry for Him. Perez makes his debut on this record but he has been with the group since 2017. After hearing him on The Fire Itself, I can say he is just as penetrating as founding drummer Lee Humerian, who left Phinehas to go do mission work. Whether you are a Christian or not, this album was made for all metalheads. To Phinehas, I salute you. Horns up!!!
The Fire Itself
War You Know
The Storm in Me
Severed by Self Betrayal
In the Night
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