Formed in Beccles in 2008, Fearless Vampire Killers are a band who have come a long way and grown so much in terms of their musical ability and sound since their first EP ‘In Grandomina’. Made up of 5 members; drummer Luke Illingworth, bassist Drew Woolnough, guitarist Cyrus Barrone (aka Shane Sumner) and joint front-men Kier Kemp and Laurence Beveridge who both take it in turns to do vocals and guitar, they create songs rich in individuality and all joined together through a story that weaves through their albums. Both their debut album ‘Militia of the Lost’ and ‘Unbreakable Hearts’ are based on novels created by Laurence Beveridge, set in the fictional city of Grandomina, with themes of love, loss, war and -of course- vampires and the ‘Fearless Vampire Killers’.
However, ‘Bruises’ does not seem to follow that same pattern. This mini album has taken a more personal route, with the band members expressing emotions that they feel, not that their characters feel. The songs are more like anthems, filled with truth, and you can hear how passionate both Kier and Laurence are when they sing their respective songs. At moments the music and lyrics are so overwhelming it’s hard not to get emotional. These are different stories they are telling this time, ones from the heart, not the pages of a book.
It starts off with ‘Feel Alive’, a song which encaptures FVK’s sound and throws it at you with a jumpy verses and melodic chorus, showing Kier Kemps voice change from clean cut singing to a harsher shout/scream in the second verse. ‘Feel Alive’ has so much variety in it, from the simple muffled drum beat and guitar riff for the intro, to the slower bridge where the whole band joins in to sing the lyrics, it shows that FVK are able to pack different sections into a song without it sounding patched together and sloppy. It is certainly a powerful opening song, one that captures the listener and shows great promise for the rest of the album.
Promise that is lived up to. The next track ‘Stepping Stones’ is sung by Laurence, who has a more deeper, rawer voice to compliment Kier’s higher range. It’s one of many clearly emotional songs, with a stand-out chorus that gets the listener singing along to it. Again, the whole band joins in to provide backing vocals and harmonies, something that they pull off so well, and is evidence of how tight they are as a group. My favourite part of the song is when they chant the chorus, accompanied by a marching drum roll, as though to show that the ‘we’ in ‘We walk these stepping stones’, includes you as well as them.
‘Keep Smiling’ is in total contrast to its predecessor, with the intro sounding much more like the style of Green Day. It’s exciting, fast and catchy, and keeps the energy level of the album up high. It’s put together in the same way as ‘Feel Alive’, but this time in the chorus you have Kier singing the lead lines over the rest of the band who are singing a repeated section underneath. This does make it hard to hear what the lyrics actually are, therefore losing some of the songs meaning, but this is regained when it comes to Laurence’s spoken word speech. Putting something like this in a song can prove risky, yet Fearless Vampire Killers hit the mark.
‘Ok so this is the way I see it:
All you do is commentate
On what’s hot and what’s not.
What’s hip and what’s shit.
What means something,
And what ain’t nothing.
You’re a leaking spout of shallow observations
Based on half-arsed assumptions.
You don’t add anything to this world.
You don’t create anything.
It costs you nothing!
This cost us everything!’
The speech actually relates to the rest of the song, it’s not just in there for the sake of it. Laurence has something he wants to say and has been wanting to for a while, it seems. You can speculate who he may be talking to, politicians, record companies, celebrities, bullies… The main thing is, people can relate to it. It’s powerful. And these days you need power in order to stand out in the music scene.
‘Regret’ is a beautiful song. It’s one that really touches me personally, and is one of those songs that gets you thinking, contemplating. ‘I’m holding on to something, I’m holding on to this regret’. Everyone has a regret, it’s not something you can let go of easily, and Fearless Vampire Killers capture that feeling and put it into this song. It’s a song that is very stripped back considering how huge some songs were in ‘Unbreakable Hearts’, yet stripping it back lets FVK reveal themselves more and shows how much they’re still growing- how much they still have to offer.
Now onto the stand out track, ‘Like Bruises’. The first single off the album and the one which has it all. Lead in by a blinding riff that comes at you like a whirlwind, mixing together the deepest notes of a guitar with the highest, it spins around you with such aggression that you wouldn’t normally associate with Fearless Vampire Killers. You can tell this song is fueled by anger. Even the video which accompanies it tells the story of a relationship ending, and shows how your life can change from good to bad in a split second, with just one sentence, shown with the lyrics ‘Like Bruises on skin, words unspoken sink in’ and ‘All that I am is no more’. It’s actually quite hard to watch that video, and makes you want to reach out and make everything better again. Laurence almost spits out the lyrics when he sings the verses, before composing himself to sing the chorus, yet no emotion is spared as it reaches the ending of the song, as that monster of a riff comes back around to finish the song with a bang.
An audio clip of someone getting out of a car and walking to a house, knocking on a door plays before the finale of the album starts, ‘Aging Love’. It’s the song which hits home the most. There’s no glorified story surrounding it, and it’s clear what it’s about, ‘I loved you, but this can’t go on’…’Why is an aging love so wrong? You promised me we’d be forever’… It’s dark, haunting and full of pain. However the bridge goes off on a tangent, as Laurence tells us more of the story, and you have to listen hard to keep up with it all to get the full meaning. Yet this is overshadowed by the wonderfully melodic instrumental finish that wraps up the album in a huge FVK shaped bow.
This album is all about them, no dramatics, no characters, just them as they truly are. Each track is so carefully thought out and professionally produced, Fearless Vampire Killers are a band that mean business, they want to get their voices heard- now more so than ever. They put songs out that they truly believe in and I couldn’t see how anyone could doubt their creativity. The instrumentation is so technical; each riff is different, each track contains multiple drum sequences and all the harmonies are done with such precision. This band will achieve big things, I have no doubt about that. They will do it their way, and they will let nothing stop them.