ALBUM REVIEW: The Prize Fighter Inferno – The City Introvert
Photo Credit: Chondra Echert
15 years. That’s how long it’s taken Claudio Sanchez to release another full-length release under The Prize Fighter Inferno moniker, managing to beat even Tool’s 13-year span between records. Has the wait for The City Introvert been worthwhile, though?
For those who don’t know anything about Claudio Sanchez or PFI, allow us to shed some light: Sanchez is the guitarist, lead singer, and main composer and writer of progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria (we say progressive rock but there’s also some pop-punk and heavy metal thrown in there, so it’s more accurately called a mishmash). Coheed albums are usually story-based, with the songs touching on themes and characters that will be explored in more detail in comic books or novels, which are all connected in an overarching story known as The Amory Wars. The Prize Fighter Inferno was born as a spin-off side project, which was named after one of the characters in the story, and the debut release, My Brother’s Blood Machine, tied into the Amory Wars storyline as well.
Where Coheed and PFI ultimately differ, though, is in the musical style – where the former spews out awesome riffs and a general dose of heaviness with a dash of prog, the latter lays everything aside for a more synth and vocal-based experience, with some folk-leaning acoustic guitars thrown in for good measure. And here is where The City Introvert comes in. Born during a time when concerts were on hold and some personal troubles came up, such as his grandfather falling ill or his wife (fellow Amory Wars writer Chondra Echert) began facing an auto-immune disease, Sanchez revived the side project, which remained dormant since 2012’s Half Measures EP. As such, the lyrical content on this new release is far more personal compared to previous years, the synths are more prevalent than ever, and even the storyline veil is barely there, if at all.
Tracks such as Sweet Talker, Death Rattle or Holiday Fool highlight the electronica side of the project perfectly, with the second of those remaining the package’s strongest track (there’s a reason it was one of the main singles). The biggest change of all, however, can be spotted right from the album opener, More Than, as well as later tracks Crazy For You and Rock Bottom…autotune?
Yes, that’s right, the man who’s been compared to the likes of Rush’s Geddy Lee *specifically chose* to use autotune on his voice. We can only speculate as to the reason behind this (perhaps he wanted to change his vocal delivery and make it uncomfortable, weird, or unsettling), and this specific pair of ears isn’t particularly fond of it (especially after witnessing Sanchez’s vocal prowess first-hand during a Coheed show back in 2018), but it still works in this context nonetheless.
Elsewhere on this record, Stay Where You Are ends the album on a soft, acoustic note, Roll For Initiative is among the more upbeat offerings (and a nice Dungeons and Dragons reference for the fellow RPG enthusiasts), and fellow Coheed drummer Josh Eppard lends his rapping skills on Stray Bullets, under his Weerd Science moniker. It’s quite a surprising track, in the sense that the rapping is nowhere near as easily disrupting as the autotune, and can even be more easily enjoyed by some, so including it (and making it one of the singles) was definitely the right move.
In the end, The City Introvert is an okay new offering by The Prize Fighter Inferno. Depending on the listener’s stance on autotune, it’ll either be up their alley or not, as is usually the case for these kinds of folktronica projects. As it stands, with its emphasis on synths and vocal processing and very minimal guitars, some might find it a more boring release compared to the debut album, or even the 2012 EP. We’ll just be here eagerly awaiting that new Coheed record, listening to The Unheavenly Creatures on a loop. Don’t mind us.
Standout Tracks: Death Rattle, Stray Bullets, Sweet Talker
For Fans Of: Coheed and Cambria, Davenport Cabinet, Fire Deuce, Weerd Science
Written by: Florin Petrut