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~Fight Like Sin~
Rock/Arena Rock/Progressive Rock

Identity - Fight LIke Sin
Recorded and Produced at Threshold Studios - Indianapolis

Blake Balensiefer
Cody Hughes
Drew Luigs
Tim Stepp

Ten tracks...let’s do this.

FLS has experienced a quick and exciting timeline of inception and growth.  I’ve come to consider them some of the harder working and respected cogs of the music machine.  As such, I pondered for a long time what my own expectations would be after the well spent time with Singularity.

As a listener and reviewer, my expectations are often slightly more intricate.  Sound, Structure, Lyrical Support, and the most important; especially with a band of this caliber...Progression.

Knowing that Singularity could involuntarily and unconsciously become my benchmark for comparison, I chose early on to treat their latest and 3rd release as a new work that should and would be unchallenged by their former.

The FLS sound has distinct signatures.  Hard riffs, not just hard but with substance, vocal drops and hooks that welcome you at each key change, bridge and solo, and a unique cross timing underneath Cody’s vocals.  These guys aren’t weekend musicians. They work hard...together...and often. Vocals that imply an intellectual approach to lyricizing and song structure, are wrapped tightly into Stepp’s explosive drum support, Drew Luigs’s energetic and rapidly delivered bass wall, and Balensiefer’s fret work that seems to always be there exactly when it’s needed.

FLS doesn’t sway off course with any sudden or experimental departures in Identity, and I dig that.  The promise made from the intro in the first track delivers throughout.  To that end, join me in tribute to FLS in our latest album review…

- Fight Like Sin - Identity

Track 1

Melodic, and dream-like as it wafts through the channels (...totally listen to this with quality earbuds btw…), this intro sets a mood.  It’s an aural majestic rise, a nice expectation of what’s ahead...

Track 2
Chasing A Lie

Heavy in the drop at the intro.  Lyrically probing, anywhere you are it seems this song will relate to you.  (What a great discussion this was among friends).  FLS’s unique sound has distinction immediately.  This track has a soft hook with a smooth binding solo to it.  Good intro tune. Stepp has several times in this track where he stands out strongly.

Guitar in this track synchronizes well with the vocals.  Chugging through the choral hook feels good as you prep for each verse.  Both are winners. Cody’s laid down some serious vocal work in this track alone.  This creates expectation again. I thoroughly enjoy that as a listener.

Track 3
Caught In The Fall

Full disclosure here.  These are the exact (polished a bit) words that I gave to the artist in private.  I normally wouldn’t shamelessly steal previous copy, but decided that it still stands solidly as my opinion on this song.

“Everything about this tune makes us want to listen to it over and over again. It’s lyrics are relevant, it’s title is intriguing, the hooks are solid, the solo and the bridge are tight and complimentary, and the awesome echo faded mix/ending is a badass and memorable tag.”

There’s this really cool drum like guitar sound at the intro.  I loved that bit so much I kept rewinding it. The bass line is strong and notable in this track as well.  And...I love this collective hint of stutter-step right before the pre-chorus that’s really groovy :-) There’s a full, solid build up in the breakdown that has a cool repeat of the feels within the structure.

Bonus: Culturally relevant, and a simple message, it’s the one that makes Shelley dance and it’s the one she wants to hear again :-)

Track 4

There’s a warm and groovy guitar trill during the intro.  It has a soft but memorable melody hook. I was looking for a fix for my Jones’ for the big crescendo where it crashed like previous heart-wrenchers from FLS, but ended up doing it in a softer way.  Sneaky that one. Romantic yet brooding, it employs us to assess the inner demons that chase the character in the narrative.

And simply put….great lyrics! Great story.  They ride the music as if a passenger. FLS does this especially well.

*Mix Point:*
A humble and salutatory bow to the mixing on this album.  I dig your perspective, whoever you are; and wish to meet you someday to talk all about your work.  I hear constant attention to detail. The landscape isn’t forgotten. I appreciate that, sincerely. Well done.

Track 5

Bold and energetic...I kept rewinding the intro, where the mixing and the sound resonate into an explosive first line:

“...What do you get from me?
You're pushing me over,
the edge until you see
That we came from nowhere…”

There’s a lyrical simplicity here, yet powerful.  The bridge is perfect, the vocal hooks are gentle, there’s an arc between the the soft breakdown and the final train-like guitar run that closes it nicely.

Track 6
Save You

This is probably my favorite riff on the album.  And not just the lead riff, but also the hard chug down into the opening line.  That’s good work there my man. Good work. Fist bump!

(...and Rick ruins the article at this point -  with a poor, dad-joke like attempt to be cool…)

The mix work in this track during the breakdown is super cool indeed.  It’s a faraway stare through the landscape. The background vocals work here so well, then the song bangs back in for a slow and music stop-finish.  Good fit on the album. This track is in the right place.

Track 7
Far From Never

Another fun riff with mixing at the beginning of this track.  I like the extra measure with the intro riffs. Good call there on the vocal mixing as well...background vocals focused on in this track.  Smart writing. The hook here is the track title. You picture Cody atop a rock shouting to the masses. Very...rock. Very rock.

Stepp goes hard here for the breakdown.  It’s like...come get some!!! Then the whole crew is in.  Guitar riffs in the background, heavy chug in the foreground, an almost orchestral rise to the bridge and the bass smack.

So good...

This is the track on the album that wins my award for structural integrity.  It has vocal key changes that create mystery, it’s daring; and listen for the arrangements and the cross-timing between verse and’s pretty badass.

Blake and Stepp fit well together in the surprise breakdown.  And i can’t say enough how much I love it when you think a song is over, and WHAM!!!! Right around 2:30, there’s a whole and beautiful composition placed there snugly.  It’s a song within a song, and it’s so rewarding to me as a listener, especially a full album experience listener.  These guys are chemically sound.  They bond and work as one.

*Mix note here again.  Wow gang, well done near the end with the repeat tags, etc…*

“Here it comes...ready or not…”

Track 8
See Yourself

The guitar vs. drum chug at the beginning starts immediately to build on solid platform.  There are subtle hooks; the main hook let’s you know who you really are.

I realized during many repeat listens, that there are several times in this track that I’m mentally off in the background admiring Tim Stepp’s drum work so much so (such as the mini-intro, and the work before the main hook line), that I get lost for a few seconds.  It’s fun to be suddenly surprised when the hook abruptly reminds me there’s more to be acknowledged in this track.

Oh yeah...there are other levels here - :)

With three distinct vocal dips that in themselves are tiny hooks, there’s an almost brooding, squeezing feel to it.  It personifies the track.

Track 9
Never Surrender

The cool mixing intro lends a sound that turns into a totally danceable, rockable track.  I like the way it leads you to the title hook musically as well as lyrically. It’s a solid track near the end of a great album.  And while I never know with certainty the recording/writing order, one can imagine that this was a near-end comment of finality; imploring the listener to heed these words as a battle cry.

Time well spent on all points vocally.  Again, there’s a complement of guitar against verse throughout.  Some of the chords during the bridge are sultry...outright. Damn sultry.

The message...don’t give up.  It’s universally human.

Track 10

Editors Note:
While Never Surrender would’ve ended the album for me near perfectly, Haunted becomes the bonus track.  Without intent, a listener could loop and might forget that this track, with its big opening sound, is in fact the LAST song and NOT the first one.

Final thoughts...

You can tell when a group of artists have worked hard.  You hear it in their final product. You feel it. Allow yourself to escape for a half hour.  Put this in your ears and breathe slow...let the arena feel of Identity hammer into your identity.


Slow down… and listen to some music... peace.


Fight Like Sin - Identity - Ricker Rocker Music Promotion