Red Goes Grey
Metropolis Records

Eric Sochocki laid out the rubric for making the music on FIRES’ debut in a recent interview with amodelofcontrol: “1. It has to make me want to dance 2. It has to make me feel something 3. It has to be pop”. Apparently things went according to plan, because the record is made up of catchy, personal songs with club appeal. A confident step forward from Sochocki’s songwriting and production work in the intense industrial rock project Cryogen Second and its post-rock follow-up Becoming the Devourer, Red Goes Grey is a bracing mix of electronics and rock instrumentation and arrangement.

More specifically, FIRES uses synthwave production as a delivery mechanism for big hooks and highly emotional vocals. The pop-bass, gated-reverb snares and synth stabs on the verse of “Counting Walls” could have been the basis for a funky Outrun banger, but instead they roll effortlessly into a knockout chorus that would feel totally at home transplanted to a post-hardcore cut. It’s a formula established early on opener “Believe Me” where a cleverly positioned bridge and breakdown contrast the song’s repeating synth lead, and on the arresting title track where doubled vocals are lifted aloft on a tide of processed guitar noise and a deep bass and drum groove. Finding the sweet spot between genres is no mean feat, but Sochocki consistently walks the line, inserting rock nods into electronic instrumentals like “Tell No One” and “Follower”.

Unexpectedly, it’s the vocals that often feel like the album’s lynchpin. A lyric like “Someday you’ll wake up/Without a life left to fuck up” could easily be mawkish if underdelivered, but is leaned into with a conviction and sentiment that sells it completely. While not possessed of the most powerful or distinct voice, Sochocki makes the most of what he has both via extensive use of vocal production that positions him comfortably among the synthetic instruments, and through his willingness to be vulnerable. These are his songs, and the sincerity with which he delivers them speaks to that; when he intones lines like “It’s just a temporary amputation” on closing ballad “Some Kind of Progress” the moment is earned and the song is all the better for it.

A record like Red Goes Grey could have stumbled in so many ways. Many acts have tried to marry the same sounds, but ended by diluting them into a flavourless mush, and more than a few artists have come off as histrionic when shooting for affecting. That it succeeds so frequently in its aims shouldn’t be overlooked, although that accomplishment is overshadowed by how purely listenable and enjoyable it is. FIRES’s brand of electronic rock is what it sets out to be, and has the execution and heart to match its ambitions.

Buy it.