Fit for a Kiehn: Ranking the Songs of Fit for a King, Part 3
—by Nathan on September 15, 2018—
It started with math; it ends with math. Cause we’ve only got fourteen songs left to get through, so let’s get counting down to the best Fit for a King songs so far.
14. Young & Undeserving (Slave to Nothing)
Some FFAK songs start slow and quiet. But Kirby decides to tear right into this one with an almost terrifying cry. It makes sense. The song is about the struggle of losing a loved one who is also a non-believer, wrestling with the thought of losing that person for eternity. It feels incredibly poignant and personal, and Kirby’s vocals just dang fit the subject matter. It’s not rage, it’s the pain of loss, and he carries it through fantastically. Top it off with a pretty catchy chorus from O’Leary (seriously, what happened to the guy between then and now?), some great guitar work, and a pulverizing last minute or so, and you have one of the best songs of the album.
13. The Lioness (Creation/Destruction)
Okay, we’ve gone sixteen entries without hearing from Creation/Destruction. That’s a testament to how fantastic this album is. “The Lioness” is much like “Stacking Bodies”—it’s all Kirby, it’s all guitars, it’s all pretty dark. This particular song focuses on temptation (“For too long I’ve been doing a delicate walk with the devil” could possibly be the best line they’ve ever written) and the struggles of following our inner darkness, the paths our shadows can lead us down. Kirby does not let up the entire time, almost as if he’s just drilling the idea into the listener’s head. “Can you not feel yourself falling deeper?” he asks in the chorus. It’s an extreme song, but it’s that level of extraordinary hammering that makes the song as gripping as it is.
12. Dead Memory (Deathgrip)
Our second-to-last song from Deathrip is also its most personal. Taking inspiration from a family member of Kirby’s who was abandoned by a parent at an early age, “Dead Memory” is essentially a question. “Would you even notice if my world was falling apart?” Kirby sings, turning a song that could be heaps of rage—which, admittedly, there is some—into something a bit more thought-provoking. Oh, and I didn’t make a mistake. He does actually sing in this song. He doesn’t do it often, but Kirby has started offering more clean vocals in FFAK’s work, and their songs are better for it (and as of this writing, given my limited interaction with "Dark Skies," it's quite possibly the best aspect of the whole album). His voice soars here. With lines later sung by August Burns Red frontman Jake Luhrs, followed by their second greatest breakdown yet, the song is a blaze of fire and emotion the whole way through.
11. Cold Room (Deathgrip)
And here’s the best song off Deathgrip. A teaser for this song hooked me for this album, and it remains the best part of the whole record. “Cold Room” focuses on abortion, and it does so very carefully for such a controversial topic. It seems like the band really tried to understand the thought process of an individual after they go through such a decision, and they beautifully lay out those emotions and thoughts. Sure, Kirby screams and there are some great breakdowns, but it’s still a beautiful song. The second chorus, at the end, actually is Kirby for the majority, followed by an intertwined bit that’s amazingly, surprisingly, fantastically rendered by O’Leary. Together, they craft the album’s strongest moment, and for someone who feels likes the words of the chorus can be applied to loss in general, it’s a hauntingly personal and emotional moment.
10. Broken Fame (Creation/Destruction)
Four songs. That’s all it took to hook me to FFAK. This was one of them. C/D’s third track, “Broken Fame,” tackles the subject of material possessions and how our mission to gain as much as we can often leads us away from God. Perhaps not the most original concept for a song, but it’s done really well. Kadura opens the track and maintains his fantastic clean vocals throughout the entire song; this is where he makes his vocal presence be felt, basically contesting Kirby for mastership over the song. With lines such as “I stood my ground, and I pushed You out, but I still couldn’t find/What made me whole, what broke the mold/And without You, I’ll never know,” Kadura makes his and the band’s faith and struggles known. Add in a heavy breakdown at the very end, you have a solid track that incorporates several elements which makes FFAK songs so entertaining.
9. Skin & Bones (Creation/Destruction)
We now find ourselves confronted with FFAK’s final ballad. Like the others, this one is pretty much the clean vocalist all on his lonesome. Kadura carries himself well, crafting a song about seeking heaven in the midst of distractions that plague our mortal selves, our “skin and bones.” Perhaps a little slow at the beginning, the song’s middle leads into some great lines (“I know that one of these days/I’ll finally see you face-to-face at the golden gates/Will You take me or will I fade into the grave?”), and with the word “grave,” Kadura’s voice gets higher and warbles, like he’s just put everything he could into that one word. It’s his best moment, maybe the best moment any clean vocalist for the band has done. Followed with some cool drum work and some guitars, Kadura proves himself to be perhaps the best of all three vocalists with just this one song. It’s this soft blend and his vocals which makes the song so stunning every time I hear it.
8. Forever Unbroken (Slave to Nothing)
Slave to Nothing was just an okay album until I reached this track. First, some smooth intro guitars, leading into Kirby’s snarls and bellows against a society that shuns his faith and savior (“You know nothing when you tell me that I/Worship a fabricated story in the sky!”). The whole song is a testament to his faith as a Christian and his unwillingness to back down (“I won’t back down!” is actually a line). And then a neat buildup into a chorus that’s just Kirby. It was weird listening to, at first, because I knew it sounded different but I didn’t know who was doing vocals. I later found out it was Kirby singing, and I’ve been highly impressed with his clean vocals ever since. It’s maybe the band’s catchiest chorus to date, easy to follow as it leaps from line to line. Perhaps it’s a production put together by the whole band—from a great breakdown in the middle, to a ending bang on the drums—but this feels like Kirby’s arena, his chance to press his personal stamp into the band’s music. Which he does. Excellently.
7. Warpath (Creation/Destruction)
The first lyrical song on C/D, ignoring the instrumental opener track, “Warpath” is all you need to know you found something heavy and awesome. Starting right off with a shout from Kirby and some of the band’s heaviest guitars to date, “Warpath” is just full-on brutal in its execution. While the chorus isn’t the greatest, it’s the pure brutality of the song which makes it so fun to listen to. “This is my everlasting purpose!” Kirby just shrieks near the beginning, a high-pitched blaze of fury that undoubtedly marks the high point of his vocal abilities. It may not be my favorite line the band has written, but it’s my favorite line he’s sung. It’s a segment I could listen to on a loop. He just nails it so, so well.
6. The Resistance (Creation/Destruction)
I tend to forget about this song. Now, that’s not a criticism. It’s just that, with more C/D songs to come, it tends to fall under the radar. However, “The Resistance” is one of those tracks which makes me smile whenever it plays. Like, “Oh, yeah, I forgot I enjoyed this one.” Coming in with a brutal guitar intro, “The Resistance” doesn’t let up with how harsh it is. Again, it follows the theme of living in such a dark world and, as the title implies, resisting it. Vocalists blend as Kirby and Kadura share a fantastic chorus together, building up to a Kirby-driven breakdown as he belts out one of his most infamous lines: “Your existence disgusts me!” as he cries against, maybe, the devil or sin in general. The band’s turned it into a meme, so how’s that for genius? It’s everything you want in an FFAK track, and like I said earlier, it has that signature moment which makes it great.
5. The Architect (Descendants)
And now we’ve reached the point where “signature moment” becomes “moments.” So many pieces of this song are fantastic—Kadura’s opening lyrics, Kirby’s repeated cry of “I will return, I will rebuild!”, Kadura’s chorus followed by more Kirby. The whole first half of the song is masterfully divided into these ear worm-like chunks that work together to create something spectacular. But the shining star is our final guest vocalist: Matty Mullins, frontman of Memphis May Fire. He lends some stellar vocals near the end of the song. He’s the best guest artist FFAK has relied on, and his signature growls (“Crooked is the path that I lead” he snarls fantastically at one point) makes the song even more endearing. Like so many other songs, it’s the right pieces that fall into the right places to make a fantastic track.
4. Destruction (Creation/Destruction)
Ending the band’s greatest album, “Destruction” is the finale to end all finales. But what does it have that the others lack? While “Deathgrip” and “Final Thoughts” are both great, they just cannot match, pound for pound, the ferocity of “Destruction.” A song with a title like that has to be harsh, and the band lives up to it. No clean vocals, no pauses…just pure, unmitigated metal from beginning to end. While the other songs give cool instrumental intros, this one has Kirby’s vocals right out the gate. He carries the entire track, ending C/D on a heavy high note.
3. Bitter End (Creation/Destruction)
Starting with an interesting electronic-infused opener that by no means harms the heaviness, this song, “Bitter End” another incredibly personal song on the part of the band. Like others, it feels like it focuses heavily on the topic of different temptations and the idea of being born into such a broken world (“I am broken by my birthright!/And made to die by design!”) But, the song concedes in the chorus, there’s hope that we will not necessarily face our “bitter end.” It’s an odd blend of sorrow and hope, something the band is quite known for. And the various memorable, remarkable pieces which make up the song—the opening first lyrics, the quickly sung build up to the chorus, the entire second body section leading into a lengthy, devastating breakdown—is just beat after beat of awesome and raw energy. I don’t know if metal songs are really anthem-like by nature, but a song that digs into the soul of man’s darkness and seeks the light needed to get away from the shadows? That’s a message I’ll listen to any day.
2. Ancient Waters (Descendants)
The very first song I discovered from the band, “Ancient Waters” is what sealed the deal. And that was just the original. Both versions of the song—the original one on Descendants and the first track on the rerelease—are so incredibly interesting and unique that I’ve actually listened to them side-by-side just to compare the two. The original has a rip-roaring opener of guitar work, punctuated by Kirby’s classic scream of “I have come to destroy!” For me, it’s iconic, and while the rereleased version doesn’t quite do it justice, the rest of the song is phenomenal. In the rereleased version, Kirby’s growls are much deeper and his cries higher; Kadura’s cleans drive the chorus expertly; the ending is a thrashing question to those who have yet to embrace faith. The two songs are each so unique in their own right, are each so interesting on their own…and while the rereleased is overall the better of the two, it’s hard to imagine any other song hitting the ball out of the park twice.
1. Hollow King (Sound Of The End) (Creation/Destruction)
Earlier, I mentioned how “Dead Memory” had the band’s second best breakdown. That’s because this song has the first. Fifteen seconds in, Kirby’s screams halt for a senses-shattering, eardrum-pounding, head-banging series of riffs that I’ve loved for the past five years. Rejoined by Kirby’s vocals, the song builds and builds into Kadura’s short, but incredibly sweet chorus, followed by more chugging and throaty snarls by Kirby. In a discography with songs that have so many of those “golden moments” that I’ve been mentioning, “Hollow King” pulls itself away from the rest of the pack because the entire song IS a moment. A single moment, consisting of so many beats flowing into one compressed piece. From Kirby’s opening shout of “You’ve got blood on your hands!”, to the breakdown, to the ramp up to the chorus, to the chorus itself, to Kirby’s bits afterwards (“You ventured out to save the one you love!” is an exceptionally sung line), to the second chorus (sung twice, once muted and the next full-fledged Kadura), to Kirby’s final dose of rage…the whole thing works. Kirby himself has stated the song is about a man chasing a friend who has lost his faith, only to find out that friend is the man himself. It’s kinda creepy, a little dark and disturbing, but it’s a vibe that’s supposed to make listeners self-reflect on our own sins and dark places. How are we our own hollow kings?
That wraps up the list. That’s all 42 FFAK songs, ranked in order from my least favorite all the way to my absolute favorite. I know this genre isn’t for everybody; I know some would prefer more uplifting Christian music to something that can end up being a bit darker. But, for me personally, I think FFAK’s heavy vocals and instrumentals line up perfectly with some equally heavy subject matter other Christian artists would either dance around the edges of or avoid completely. They’re not afraid to be real; they’re not afraid to inject faith into the darkness. Perhaps the hope of God, Jesus, and salvation is pushed a bit deeper, but it’s still an underlying theme that wriggles its way through the lyrics, waiting for listeners to find.
Maybe that more subversive, metaphorical, indirect method is a good way to do it.