Perhaps it was that best-of compilation of 2012, The Meanest Hits. Maybe it was their big screen adventures in Beautiful Machine, that revealing documentary of the same year. Or it could date back to Ignite, 2010's confident but relatively sedentary Shihad album that had little bite to go with its bark.
Whatever it was, a feeling of complacency seemed to be seeping into the Shihad camp. No one would blame fans for thinking that after a 26-year career, yielding nine often brilliant, sometimes wayward, and occasionally awkward albums, the Wellington-bred, Melbourne-based foursome might have said all they had to say.
Within minutes, FVEY - pronounced "Five Eyes" - has smashed that theory in its face and knocked it out cold.
That's thanks to the one-two opening punch of Think You're So Free, the blitzkrieg first single that combines jagged riffs with Jon Toogood's rousing "Do you think we'll wake up?" call to arms, and the chilling title track, which locks into a gargantuan groove and rides it for a thrilling five minutes as Toogood rants about how "our freedom is already sold".
It's an impressive start to Shihad's politically-charged tenth album that seems intent on proving just how much mongrel they have left in them.
Turns out there's quite a bit. Returning Churn producer Jaz Coleman has brought out the best in them. Listen to the venom in Toogood's spiteful vocals at the beginning of Grey Area when he screams, "I am a reflection ... I am what you wanted to hear". Try Phil Knight's quickfire riffage on The Living Dead, which kicks off like a Rob Zombie song before erupting into an electrified stomp. And check out the brooding tension of Song For No One, a song that keeps you hanging until its celebratory finale.
Elsewhere, Model Citizen resembles a punk-rock song with its chugging riffs and shouted lyrics that include the refrain: "We want an end to this terminal cancer". Love's Long Shadow grunts and growls like a grumpy dog guarding a bone, while Grey Area is an unsettled but riveting mid-album highlight.
Then there's Cheap As, FVEY's closing number, which most closely resembles Shihad's Churn and Killjoy-era output. Lasting seven minutes, it has a fired-up Toogood punctuating his whispered sloganeering with "Cheap! As! F***!" exclamations. Then, around the five-minute mark, it descends into a crowd-pleasing spiral of double-time riffage and Tom Larkin's pounding drum rolls that will no doubt give many metal fans a reason to see their osteopath this summer.
The truth is, FVEY isn't an album a band 26 years into their career should be making - but Wellington's finest haven't been this potent since 1999's The General Electric. So rejoice, Shihad fans: they've just made the angriest album of their career - and it's a work of beauty. Hate, is it the new love?
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