Co-founded by composer and writer William Westwater, Fear Inc. have also previously included members of DEMENTED ARE GO and the questionably named SEX GANG CHILDREN, and have quite an impressive discography for their thirteen-year career to date, including seven albums and two EP’s. 2021 found them releasing their latest album “Of Nightmares And Strychnine”...with William asking me to check it out a fair while back, which, I never got around to...sorry! Let’s rectify that shall we?
The album opens up with “The Mesmerist” and by definition this should ideally capture the listener within some, powerful hypnotic mental state, rendering them blissfully catatonic as the music consumes them...or...not. Musically we get a primarily up-beat offering truth be told; light percussion providing a stable foundation for some, zany, quite robotic synths, and plenty of echoing vocal notes. Bar a few brief transitional sections, the track remains fairly repetitive in tone throughout and doesn’t really capture too much attention.
“Red Baron” interestingly tackles the subject of one Manfred Von Richthofen, with heaps of apparent adoration. History lesson folks, the Red Baron was a German fighter pilot during the first world war, who between 1916 and 1918, gained not only notoriety, but the respect of his enemies, racking up 80 officially credited air-combat victories. There’s a subtle industrial aesthetic to the track instrumentally, cleverly using the plane’s machine gun fire to simulate percussion, with the engine mirroring the rise and fall in the tracks pitch, while the track reeks of a sense of foreboding, playing into the Baron’s ruthlessness.
Maintaining the theme of notorious historical figures, we next find ourselves delving into the darkly poetic psyche of one Aleister Crowley, on “Crowley (The Beast)”. With its simplistic yet haunting piano notes, deep, bass-rich synths and Sci-Fi inspired electronica, the whole aura here wonderfully captures Crowley’s occultist tendencies...his magico-religious doctrines were the subject of controversy, backed by his drug experimentation, sexuality and preaching of Thelema, and the track here carries that sense of mystique well.
The rest of the album continues to explore dark themes on tracks such as “Torquemada”, who during the Spanish Inquisition was responsible for the deaths of a vast number of Jews and suspected witches...”Krampus (Dark Yule)” obviously touches upon the more horrific aspects of paganistic festive traditions, while “Possessed” is simply a wailing, torturous and frankly demonic sounding interlude.
The overall delivery of the album from a musical standpoint, can sadly come across as a little flat. Despite the atmospherics and creepy production quality, vocally and structurally there is little diversity, and as conceptually interesting as some of these tracks are, none of them truly stand out per se. Fans of classic proto-Goth and early alt. rock will enjoy its traditional sounds, and it’s lyrically intriguing, at times educational even, but nothing truly hooks you here for casual listeners. Maybe try listening to it on the strychnine? No, don’t, I didn’t say that, people are dumb I take it back. Fuck. *Calls my lawyer in preparation*