ALBUM REVIEW: FEVER 333 - 'Strength in Numb333rs'

Written by George Jones

18 Feb 2019

Made an America was their mission statement...FEVER 333 just unleashed their manifesto.

The rise of FEVER 333 has been meteoric on an almost unprecedented scale. In just 18 months they’ve gone from a pop-up show in the car park of a doughnut shop to an arena tour with Bring Me the Horizon and a Grammy nomination. Amid their countless live shows, they found the time to record an EP which, despite some solid songs and a guerrilla attitude, felt a little samey and underdeveloped. Now, they’ve honed their sound into a ten-track building-leveller of an album.

Strength in Numb333rs blends rapcore, post-hardcore and nu metal into something that twists from beautiful to aggressive at break-neck speed. Throughout, Jason Butler delivers the highest energy and best vocal performances of his career, but the real surprise is just how well guitarist Stephen Harrison and drummer Aric Improta manage to keep pace with him. Thematically, they’re a modern Rage Against the Machine, but sonically they’re something more dynamic.

‘BURN IT’ makes for a punchy opener, with a clear message and catchy chorus. It’s far from the most exciting track on the record, but the bouncy riffs mean it’ll surely make for a fun live performance. Immediately, Butler leaps into his acerbic message: “I got a mouth like Malcolm/And hands just like Ali/Black Panther, white mother/You better not try me” makes it loud and clear that he wants to be a spokesperson for people of colour, strengthened by his own experience and resolute in his stance. This isn’t new for him—he’s been amplifying his politics throughout his entire musical career, a direction clear on the final two letlive. records.

The following two tracks, ‘ANIMAL’ and ‘PREY FOR ME/3’, see the vocalist reflecting on the oppression he’s lived through and recommitting to his fight (“Pray for me, prey for me/Save me from what I have become”). Again, these have an anthemic sound that beg to be heard live, while ‘ONE OF US’ is a leaner, more cyclical call to arms reminiscent of protest chants (“In the lies we trust, to survive we must/'Cause now you're one of us”).

Chunky seven-minute epic ‘INGLEWOOD/3’ is bound to be one of my songs of the year. It drives home the message behind the music and sells FEVER 333 as a grassroots band still willing to take risks. This autobiographical journey through the places Butler grew up builds as one of the more melodic and synth-heavy songs on Strength with touches of Linkin Park, before exploding into the heaviest, most guttural screams I’ve heard from the frontman. In the closing repetitions of “How bad, how bad do you want it, want it?” you can practically hear him frothing at the mouth.

It’s hard to follow up something like that, but the second half of the album mostly maintains course. However, ‘THE INNOCENT’ is one of the weaker tracks despite its heavy thematic content. Butler’s passion on the topic of gun violence can’t quite elevate it above the predictable progression and forgettable chorus. Fortunately, ‘OUT OF CONTROL/3’ has more heft and creativity, with an airy EDM atmosphere and great percussion. It doesn’t reach the same highs as ‘INGLEWOOD/3’, but it’s another 7-minute track with plenty of interesting twists and some cool rhythm in the final verses and choruses.

In fact, ‘OUT OF CONTROL/3’ feels like it should’ve been the closer, because the final two songs sound a little out of place. ‘AM I HERE?’ is deeply emotional, with sweeping strings to boot, but it seems more like a mid-album interval than a penultimate track. Likewise, ‘COUP D’ÉTALK’ has the pounding rhythm and whirling soundscape of a solid album opener. They’re great, but perhaps misplaced.

They may not be playing in car parks anymore, but the pure grassroots momentum and raw, powerful energy that fuelled the early months of FEVER 333’s existence haven’t faded. Their clear and constant delivery of their message is inspiring. Strength in Numb333rs is an accomplished debut that blends the catchy with the thoughtful and makes me want to punch some shit. What better time for a record like this?



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