Dublin is fast putting itself on the map for cultivating fresh post-punk, and despite a plethora of talent spanning multiple genres, the Murder Capital differentiate themselves by bringing a sizeable amount of emotional heft to the table. They're plenty capable of going loud and heavy, but moody instrumentation and deeply personal lyrics allow them to cut through even the sturdiest of emotional defenses. When I Have Fears tackles the loss of a close friend to suicide, with lead vocalist James McGovern giving expression to that tragic event in one way or another. This makes the album a surprisingly tender experience in places, and while the lyrics are dense and poetic, there are many times when the main theme is explicitly obvious. Being privy to such an intensely emotional journey makes for a jarring and reflective experience.
It begins with rumbling dread and ominous percussion before the addition of barking vocals and guitar stabs. "For Everything" is a dramatic opener, setting the scene and providing momentum as they move into "More Is Less." However, that momentum is cut short as "Green & Blue" kicks in, the emotional centerpiece of the album and a remarkably honest ode to loss; near the end of the song, McGovern can be heard singing the haunting line "I Felt You," painting a clear picture of his grief and the complexity of loss with the tone of his voice alone. Curiously, the album veers into a mostly instrumental two-part "Slow Dance," allowing the gravity of McGovern's lyrics to sink in. On "Twisted Ground," he appears to address his late friend directly, with the rest of the group playing distant and reflective tones. For a band billed as post-punk, the entire middle section is subdued, but through the exploration of the album's main theme, it manages to have no less of an impact.
To mark the closing act, they return to explosive form in two album highlights -- "Feeling Fades" and "Don't Cling to Life" -- both manic and darkly dramatic, they provide a sudden release from the somber nature of everything that precedes them. The band round out everything in fine theatrical form on "Love, Love, Love," a final catharsis before the drones fade out. The sheer dynamism of When I Have Fears threatens to derail the album, but a dedication to themes makes it cohesive, with the softer moments highlighting the louder counterparts and vice-versa. It's captivating from start to finish, heartbreaking in its delivery, and intense in all the right ways.