You’d be pressed to find a music community more proficient at talking to the kids than the hardcore punk community. Disavowing social and mainstream pressures associated with growing up have always been a theme pertinent to the movement. In 1981, when Ian Mackaye of Minor Threat shouted “I’m out of step with the world” he was telling it like he thought it was. Aurally it was hostile and aggressive, yet at the same time it was confessional, sincere, and honest.
Hardcore punk’s been very good at that, giving the outcasts solace and sanctuary. And it’s always nice to see the echoes of such sentiments in a more contemporary context. Bands like Modern Life Is War, Defeater and Touché Amoré always ring out in my mind when I think of bands addressing the challenging, and sometimes existential, throes associated with becoming an adult.
This is what I was thinking when I listened through Fearless Leader‘s long awaited full length Fiercely Loyal. “How I had come to live as long as I had and not been crushed by my own ego or the physical events that surround one’s life? How had I come to this place, really, how did this happen?” sings Patrick McLean in ‘Drawn In Memory’. Like many emo, hardcore and post-hardcore frontmen he puts his whole being on the line; he concedes in his lack of understanding the mystery of growing up. Fiercely Loyal‘s themes extend far beyond this; Fearless Leader explore physical violence, alcoholism, love, making mistakes, and generally coping with the deluge of expectations, choices, decisions, careers, all of that shit. And it is all delivered with honesty and heartfelt disclosure.
Ironically, the name ‘Fearless Leader’ comes from the principle antagonist in the Rocky And Bullwinkle Show, a character personifying the Nazi tyrant Otto Skorzeny, known at the time as ‘the most dangerous man in Europe‘. Musically, perhaps, the aggression of the band sounds can intimidate and alienate, like all hardcore punk music inevitably does, but the sentiment and honesty of Fearless Leader, lyrically and thematically speaking, are anything but inviting.
Fiercely Loyal is no doubt a math rock record, but Fearless Leader also makes hardcore punk antiquities intrinsic to its structure. It is a fiery and ferocious reflection on the epiphany of one’s inevitable transition into adulthood, a commemoration of what it was like to be a kid and the irreversible journey forward we all have to face.
Post hardcore, distortion, math rock, angularity, concept, hardcore, punk