The 2015 terrorist attacks on Paris affected not just the iconic French city but the globe, and not just the the ever-turbulent political sphere but the music industry as well. Since acts of terror have become an unfortunately common occurrence in our modern world, we’ve heightened security at large, international events like the Olympics and international hubs of transport such as airports. However, the tragedy that occurred at a concert at the Bataclan was tragic for more than the obvious reason. For many in the music community, like Fit For A King, it was traumatic because it attacked what is supposed to be a safe haven away from all of the horror of the world.
“It was an eyeopener being in Europe during the Paris attacks,” FFAK vocalist Ryan Kirby says, “and being in Paris [for a show] four days later. I went to the city I’ve always wanted to visit and it was basically barren of any tourists and there were military walking around and the Eiffel Tower was basically empty. You just picture this city you’ve always wanted to visit and it definitely didn’t seem like it normally would. You could tell the event had changed the whole city for that moment. Going and playing the show in Paris, you could kind of see the nervousness on the peoples’ faces that were at the show and the city just seemed uneasy and I’d never experienced that.”
“I’m glad that they didn’t let fear take away music from them”
This jarring experience inspired what would become the first full track on the band’s new record, Deathgrip, appropriately titled “Pissed Off.” The song starts off with the lyrics, “Every day is another war/ We live and die in a hopeless world,” and is clearly Kirby’s emotional reaction to what seems like a never-ending string of senseless violence. Looking back on the show Fit For A King played shortly after the destruction in and around the French capital, Kirby remains in shock.
“On stage at first I was really nervous and in my head I was imagining what the bands must have gone through and what the fans must have gone through at the Bataclan, hearing gun shots just doing what you normally do. So that kind of haunted me the whole night.”
Kirby talks at length about how music is supposed to be an escape from things like this and how having music directly attacked and surrounded by so much injury and death made it feel, at first, very vulnerable. But the music community, especially the heavier scene, doesn’t give up so easily.
“Once we started playing,” he says, “and people started loosening up and getting into it and bobbing their heads and moshing, I really kind of just forgot about it. I think it just shows how powerful music can be. I’m glad that they didn’t let fear take away music from them, which would’ve let ISIS win. They want people to be scared. They want people to stop doing what they love and they want all of that to end, and being there we kind of made a statement.”
The terrible events in Paris sparked a long, thoughtful journey for Kirby. The imminence and overwhelming presence of death clung to him and began to drive the writing of Deathgrip.
“I asked fans to send me tragic stories and a lot of them revolved around death of some sort, whether it was a friend or a relative. So I wrote a record about how death has a grip on everyone, whether death directly affects you or not.”
Death is an inevitable part of life, but it is a heavy subject that many like to avoid thinking about for too long. It’s only natural, then, that Deathgrip turned into FFAK’s heaviest album to date. The record moves between metalcore to pure metal and even tips into deathcore at times.
“With Deathgrip,” Kirby continues, “I’d say [people] don’t know how heavy our band gets until they hear “Stacking Bodies” on the record. People might think the songs we put out so far are heavy, but that song is by far the heaviest.”
Other favored tracks by the vocalist are the title track and a song called “Dead Memory.” “‘Deathgrip’ more [because] it’s different than anything we’ve ever done,” he explains. “It’s a different kind of heavy. It has the really soft verses and the chorus is the heavy part and it’s usually the other way around. ‘Dead Memory’ I love because Jake (Luhrs, August Burns Red) is in it and I love his part, but I wrote that song about my wife’s childhood and her absentee father, so that’s more of a personal song.”
Appropriately, the band are heading out on tour with Every Time I Die, Beartooth and Old Wounds for The Aggressive Tour. With such a stacked, heavy lineup, Deathgrip will make its debut in the best live way possible. As for the future, Kirby is eager for Fit For A King to headline.
“I’m ready to do a proper, fully promoted headliner where we have production and all the bands we wanna bring,” he says. “One band we for sure would do what we could to bring would be Wage War. Then there’s other bands we’re friends with that we’d love to bring like Silent Planet or Gideon.”
While future plans are still all speculation, one thing is for sure: Deathgrip is one hell of a record.