For a scene that’s always craved more respect, Fly2Void was a near-miss in modern Boise music history. Shortly after the turn of the millennium, the hard-rock group got two songs played regularly on local commercial radio, stirred up major-record-label interest, hired a manager and seemed positioned to become a breakout player on a national level. The big record deal never came. Fly2Void punched out in 2003, only to return to local stages seven years later.
Judged by its second full-length album, the quartet harbors few regrets. It feels less like a comeback stab than a long-awaited catharsis. Once again, Fly2Void collaborated with Hollywood engineer Jay Baumgardner (Papa Roach, Drowning Pool, Seether.) But rather than producing, Baumgardner mixed. Fly2Void guitarist Fahd Ismail produced. Not coincidentally, this sounds more like Fly2Void than the band’s debut, which sometimes felt like it was trying to seduce radio programmers more than satisfy the musicians’ artistic souls.
Dedicated to “our kids, all the kids we know, and all the kids around the world that we don’t know,” “Take on the World” was created by grown men making, yes, the album they always wanted to make. Compared to the vibe on Fly2Void’s debut album, think less Papa Roach, more Incubus.
Fly2Void’s lyrics aren’t entirely linear, but singer Jayk Reynolds always finds a strength-affirming phrase to keep fists pumping and sweat spraying on songs such as “Scruff of the Neck,” “This Time Around” and “Breathe,” which features guest rapper Exit Prose.
“Go crazy like you don’t care and scream from the top of your lungs! Yell! Oh yeah!” Reynolds urges on “Westeastalis,” before Ismail uncorks a headbanging riff that morphs into an unwinding blur of a crybaby solo.
Fly2Void is aiming for the heavens — sonically, emotionally, spiritually. Most songs are powered by a heavy groove here, a harmonic squeal there. Ismail never overcomplicates things as a guitarist; he retains a metal edge but finds ways to explore using restrained playing techniques and effects. Standout track “Bread” clicks behind slick drumming, air space and time-signature playfulness.
Confident and free, Fly2Void shifts into softer gears successfully. The inspirational, straightforward title track is nothing but vocals and acoustic guitars, allowing Ismail to get jazzy while Reynolds channels a soaring, ’90s alt-rock feeling.
Although this album sounds like it was made for the band members, it should please Fly2Void fans equally, if not more so. After delivering 14 studio tracks, it finishes with four live songs and a demo — the obvious treat being a live version of Fly2Void’s 2001 local-radio hit, “Better Side.” Unchained from the pressures of its early career, Fly2Void is finally showcasing its best side.