Review Summary: Bleeding Through push the boundaries between metalcore and just plain old metal and get the formula right.
Metalcore has sparked numerous debates about how original each band can be and how all the other ones just sound like a mirror of other bands. The metalcore giants (Converge, Botch, Poison the Well) pride themselves in setting themselves apart with good songwriting and intense vocals to convey the emotion they’re trying to get across. Other bands just rehash another riff or song idea from another band to try and get more money from something that someone has already done. Say what you want about Bleeding Through but I feel that they give the dying genre a good name still. They may not make the most original material but I feel that they succeed in making music that sounds like they actually do enjoy and believe in what they’re playing in. So many bands today sound like they’re just playing…just to be playing but I don’t get this vibe with this band. Being a songwriter myself the one thing that gets me about this band are the vocals. Not necessarily the lyrics, which I feel are just the same thing over and over again, but the vocals. Brandon does a really good job at making the listener feel his pain. No where else is this more prominent than it is in this release. “Portrait of the Goddess” is (technically) the second record from the Orange County based band including the “Dust to Ashes” EP. I feel that they created a record that not only holds its own against an army of sound-alike’s but also comes off as a testament on how to make your record sound as heartfelt as possible.
Now having read the above paragraph you may think that I hold Bleeding Through above bands like Converge or Botch. But in actuality I don’t, I just feel that the genre of metalcore has been all but dead for a long time now and it is refreshing to hear a band that (in the spirit of Converge) seems like they pour their hearts into what they do. Keep that in mind while reading this.
Portrait of the Goddess is an album that starts out furious and honestly does not let up for as long as it is being played. You can tell from the first track entitled “Rise” that this band loves to play and play fast. The short track ends with a breakdown that hits like a ton of bricks, but in this record (as you’ll come to find) the breakdowns are a little overused. Ill get to that later. “Rise” seamlessly flows into the next track entitled “Our Enemies”, this track boasts some bass hits and a very catchy riff to go along with it. One thing that this record seems to bring with it is a sense of emotional angst along with the sheer sense of brutality from the vocals, guitars, and drums bring. “Just Another Pretty Face” keeps this thought going now 4 songs into the album, flowing into what I feel is the best song on the record.
“Savior, Saint, Salvation” starts with an eerie piano intro that quickly morphs in to a wall of sheer sound. Now the thing that makes this song good is actually one of the faults that the album suffers from, only this song boasts it in a much more furious way than any other song on any of their other releases. After a rushing guitar track the song breaks into another piano interlude followed by an ascending guitar line and you can tell a mile away what’s coming. Only this breakdown comes with such ferocity that it commands your attention. Along with Brandon screaming “Take it all back!” it hits with such force it really has to be heard to gain the full respect of the listener. Coming from such a ferocious song you would think the album would let up, but no it launches right into the best riff on the album. “Turns Cold to the Touch” is an amazing song that also commands the listener’s attention with its ferocity. The rest of the record can be summed up, just about the same as the first half of the album, there are just not as many memorable moments from the second half that come right to mind. Now with all the praises I’ve given so far you might think that this record is without its faults, but it definitely suffers from some big ones.
The main one that you will find with listening to this album is that the production is horrible; you can tell that this record did not have the polishing touches that their other albums did. Now some might say that the earlier albums of any band will sound a bit more raw and unpolished than all of their newer releases, but this album is bad. The drums have a weird hum to them as if the room they recorded them in was too big and the sound resonated too much.
The guitars are crunchy, don’t get me wrong, but there is little to no mid to them, making some of the more complex guitar lines sound bogged out like one big sludge sound. (It’s the only way I can explain it.) Also along with the horrible production value, it continues with the vocals. Now in my personal opinion I feel that the low production value adds to the vocal intensity on this particular album, but to some it may distract them away from the overall effect of the record. His highs have a very sort of yell to them and are not the most polished in the genre but like I said, it adds to the intensity of the record. Another fault that plagues this album is the overuse of breakdowns, I do enjoy one here and there but they must be tasteful, some of the ones on this album are just there to kill some time it seems like.
Now one may wonder why I gave this album such a high rating given its faults. I do feel that I can overlook the overuse of breakdowns because this is their first (technically) release that got to the masses and they were still growing as a band and, in many ways, still in their infancy. And as I’ve previously stated I feel the poor production of the vocals only adds to the sheer intensity the record tries to deliver. Altogether this (I feel) is this bands one gem; I haven’t been as impressed with their latter work as I was with this one and judging from their latest work, they wont be returning to this style of playing any time soon, which is a shame.