Fit for a Kiehn: Ranking the Songs of Fit for a King, Part 2
—by Nathan on September 15, 2018—
Having come through what are arguably the “worst” songs created by Christian heavy metal outfit Fit for a King, we can finally embark on higher ground. Here, we begin to see what makes the band really stand out from their contemporaries: a series of adrenaline-pumping tracks that put their ferocity to the test in true FFAK fashion.
28. More Than Nameless (Deathgrip)
Deathgrip gets better the more I listen to it, but “More Than Nameless” is one of the songs from this album that I knew I liked one of the first times I played it. The bridge before the first chorus is a sung wonderfully by Kirby, with a faster almost rap-style quality to the lyrics before culminating in a shriek prior to a not-half-bad chorus by O’Leary. The whole second half of the song does not let up, with some nice low snarling by Kirby that ramps up to a cool breakdown. “Rise up!” Kirby cries in what is this album’s best fist-pumping-anthem moment.
27. Hooked (Slave to Nothing)
I’m going to complain about choruses again. Out of all FFAK’s songs, this might be the very worst. O’Leary’s vocals just don’t match the instrumentals and really seem mismatched with the following build up, similar to “Unclaimed, Unloved.” However, the rest of the song is great. From Kirby’s opening yell of “Hooked!” all the way to his ending cry of “We are addicted to our own happiness!” he soars here; an added bellow and a great breakdown near the song’s end is a perfect example of how fierce he is as a vocalist. Truly one of his best performances in the band’s entire bibliography.
26. Break Away (Slave to Nothing)
Right out the gate, Kirby is on a tear. “Years of empty bottles and broken needles have led me to the flames!” he cries, making this an incredibly personal track that seems to focus on drug use specifically but perhaps could be expanded to temptation in general. “If we know that hell wants my body, but heaven wants my mind,” O’Leary adds, before heading into a pretty fun and snappy chorus. While repetitive, the chorus, as well as the rest of the song, allows O’Leary some nice vocal time, perhaps more so than other songs in FFAK’s discography. As someone who always enjoys a well-sung clean lyric chorus, having a good one like this is a rarity and one I indelibly appreciate.
25. The Final Thoughts Of A Dying Man (Slave to Nothing)
The final song off of FFAK’s third album, “Final Thoughts” is the type of song you want to have end a record. Not that this isn’t true for the band’s other albums, but part of me has never really liked when bands ended an album with a softer, more melodic song (with a few exceptions, naturally). I want a bang, not a whimper. “Final Thoughts” provides that bang, with FFAK going all out. A heavy opener, fierce vocals by Kirby, and some nice intertwining with both Kirby and O’Leary. “Don’t let the darkness define you! You are not alone!” they shout in unison. It’s another awesome anthem moment that proves even the heavier bands can focus on hope and light in the middle of discordance.
24. A Greater Sense Of Self (Slave to Nothing)
Perhaps more than any other FFAK song (other than “Tower of Pain” off of today’s Dark Skies), “A Greater Sense of Self” had me pumped for the band’s next album. Which unfortunately led to a bit of a problem, because I listened to it a ton before the album dropped (which I also, admittedly, did with “Tower of Pain”…I don’t learn, do I?). This meant that the song quickly became a favorite of mine from the album before unfortunately slipping back a bit from over-listening. It’s still a great song—Kirby offers some really great screams, O’Leary blares out the chorus, the intro is killer guitar work—but the appeal has sort of faded over time. It’s still an incredibly catchy song, though.
23. Keep Me Alive (Descendants)
Not included on the original album, “Keep Me Alive” was recorded specifically for the rerelease, with an accompanying music video dropping before the album (and tricking me into thinking a new album was coming out, the stinkers). It has all the elements of a great FFAK track: great lyrics by both Kirby and Kadura, a catchy chorus, a pre-instrumental cry by Kirby, and a truly epic post-chorus shout of “Death will not become me!” followed by a slam of guitars. That single moment, much like Kirby’s bellow on “Hooked,” is what’s golden—it’s a single moment which makes the song stick in my brain, which identifies it, which makes it different from every other FFAK song. From here on out, we’ll see plenty of that.
22. Unchanging (Descendants)
“Unchanging” has the distinction of having not one, but two fantastic openings. Both the guitar introductions for the original and rereleased versions of the album are fantastic in their own right—the original intro starts off muted before becoming heavier, and the rereleased intro slams into the listener right away. While my opinion on the chorus can tend to waver, there’s a moment in the song which works wonderfully. “I won’t let this go!” Kirby screams defiantly in a few different ranges, allowing them to build well on each other. It’s hard, it’s tempestuous, and it again shows how skilled a vocalist he is.
21. Selfish Eyes (Slave to Nothing)
The second ballad on this list, “Selfish Eyes” completely whumps its predecessor from Descendants. Much like “Transcend,” the song is completely in the clean vocalist’s arena, with O’Leary providing lyrics for the whole song. And he’s good here, really good, which makes Deathgrip that much more disappointing. He carries the song by himself the whole way through, with some oddly heavy but cool guitars to back him up. My only complaint for this song (and why it isn’t the best of the three ballads) is the chorus. Lines like “Fill my stomach with bags of salt” and “Dissolve like a slug but you know it's your fault” are just too bizarre for a softer, more melodic song to bring any real emotional punch. They just weird me out every time.
20. Pissed Off (Deathgrip)
Despite its controversial title, the first song off Deathgrip finally brings from the murkiness of the bad half of the album into the light. Written in the wake of the 2015 Paris attacks, “Pissed Off” sounds exactly as it implies: a tearing verbal rampage against the senseless pain and violence of our world. No blame game here, just pure anger. Some might find that harsh, but for the “In your anger, do not sin” crowd, this toes the line nicely. It’s just raw emotion penned in reaction to the disease of violence, and Kirby brings that fury well. While I didn’t like it as much the first few times I heard it, the song’s brutal ferocity has grown on me in the past two years. A good, good example of an album opener.
19. Deathgrip (Deathgrip)
From the first song to the last. This title track closes Deathgrip, and oh my goodness, would you look at that? O’Leary might be the best part of the track! After a killer intro, he slides in some quiet lyrics. They’re short, emotional, and sung well on his part. His vocals sandwich a chorus blared by Kirby. It’s the last song, his last shot at furor, and he kills it. The whole song is a nice balance of calm and harsh between the two singers. While “Final Thoughts” provided a similar act, “Deathgrip” triumphs over it from sheer intensity alone.
18. Cleanse My Soul (Slave to Nothing)
This is, perhaps, the song that makes O’Leary’s vocals on “Deathgrip” all the more painful at moments. He’s the one who kicks off the song with its chorus, he’s the one who ends it. It could be his best singing on both albums. With Kirby offering some excellent screams—his shriek during the line “Like a parasite digging into my soul!” is absolutely fantastic—and giving us a taste of his own clean vocals, various elements work nicely in tandem here. It’s like “Deathgrip,” but with a bit extra Kirby thrown into the mix for good measure. A recipe like this can’t go wrong.
17. Impostor (Slave to Nothing)
“Imposter” is a song that is always building very nicely. The intro offers quiet guitars that ramp up into a heavier opener; Kirby’s lyrics give way to one of O’Leary’s better chorus (with one of their greatest, most thought-provoking lines to date: “A liar in heaven makes an angel in hell”); quieter Kirby vocals following the chorus lead to a shout of “Imposter!” and a short, but heavy breakdown. This song is always on the move, always leading into the next moment. It’s fast paced and exciting, leading the listener along throughout the whole track.
16. Slave To Nothing (Slave to Nothing)
This title track contributes an element we haven’t seen since the beginning of the list: guest vocals! “Slave to Nothing” ropes in the frontman of now-defunct Christian metal band For Today, Mattie Montgomery, to lend his ear-shattering vocals to the mix. It’s a match made in metal heaven, as he and Kirby trade lines in an incredibly powerful song about how evil’s slinking its way into society. It’s a bit of a grim truth, but the band handles it powerfully. So many moments work well, from Montgomery’s initial bridge, to the entire second half. The combination is fantastic and makes for a head-banger of a track.
15. Stacking Bodies (Deathgrip)
“Stacking Bodies” saved Deathgrip for me. Though my perspective of the album has been elevated over the past few months, “Stacking Bodies” was my absolute favorite during my first few listenings. A devastatingly brutal track centered on the Rwandan massacre, this song pulls no punches as it screams against the devil and his sordid tactics upon our physical lives. Kirby steals the show the whole way through, offering bountiful moments of pure ferocity. It’s like “Pissed Off,” but a bit deeper.
With that track finishing off our second portion, all we need now is the final piece to see what lies in the ranks of FFAK’s best songs to date. Maybe, someday, tracks from Dark Skies will take over some of those slots. But for now, the final fourteen are some of the heaviest and hardest-hitting the bands has offered over the past seven years.