In April last year, Fontaines D.C’s brilliant debut Dogrel steamrolled through the rock community like the musical equivalent of blitzkrieg, making what the Dublin five-piece already knew glaringly obvious to everyone else; they were gonna be big.
Dogrel was much more than just a collection of songs. It was a vivid and eloquent portrayal of Dublin through heady, Joycean sentiments and compelling, discordant rhythms. It perfectly captured the essence of a city and marked the quintet out as a force to be reckoned with, shining a light on them as a group with serious potential for greatness.
It is hardly surprising then, that the release of a sophomore effort just fifteen months after a debut of such high calibre has been met with feverous excitement and heavy expectation. But, the Dubliner’ second effort will be like cold water shock for anyone expecting Dogrel 2.0.
Where the quintet’ debut favoured boisterous romantic anthems, A Hero’s Death completely contrasts this with a darker, dreamier and more atmospheric sonic. As frontman and lyricist Grian Chatten turns his gaze inwards, at times sounding completely desolate, Fontaines D.C tear down an old version of themselves and replace it with what sounds like an altogether different band.
Opener ‘I Don’t Belong’ brings this fact to the fore as Chatten forlornly drawls over downbeat guitars and gloomy rhythms. Borne out of of a gruelling tour schedule that almost destroyed the band, this agony exists throughout ‘A Hero’s Death’, a feeling that is perfectly encapsulated in ‘You Said’. Chatten’s vocal delivery is the closest to conventional singing he’s come yet as he softly and despondently drones, “You said you’ve been on the brink, so slow down, don’t get time to think, now, you try operating faster”.
Working once again with producer Dan Carey, Chatten’s vocals seamlessly weave into the bleak sonic textures of ‘A Hero’s Death’. Wistful ditty ‘Oh Such A Spring’ opens like a Jeff Buckley number and ‘Love Is The Main Thing’ – where Chatten details how loyalty can be a shackle behind droning rhythms – help maintain a more sombre mood throughout the quintet’s sophomore effort. With influences like Vincent Gallo and Leonard Cohen, it is no surprise the band have adopted a more melancholic approach to their music.
Alas, it is not all anguish and despair. Remnants of the Fontaines D.C that wrote ‘Dogrel’ exist in their follow up effort. ‘Televised Mind’ churns behind pounding ‘Immigrant Song’ style rhythms, swiftly followed by the clamorous ‘A Lucid Dream’, all before the ominous rumblings of ‘Living In America’ later in the LP.
The album closes with ‘No’. In direct conversation with the themes of the record, Chatten shows them the cold shoulder and chooses to face them as his genuine self. Authenticity has always been key for Fontaines D.C, and by remaining so they have produced another clear, unedited picture of who they are and what they are made of. The five-piece have torn down any previous notion of them as a band and forged a new identity that is as potent as its predecessor ever was.
A Hero’s Death? Not at all.
A Hero’s Death is released this Friday, 31st July and is available to pre-order and pre-save now.