In England we have some unique species of animals such as the Adder - a black and yellow, non-venomous snake. However, we also have some completely generic little creatures that aren’t unique at all, no matter how much they insist that they are. They are called ‘emo’ or ‘scene’ kids. They wear thick eyeliner (even the guys), have dyed black hair which is straightened and styled so that it covers one eye. They wear tight trousers (pants) that will one day constrict their sexual organs so much that they will be unable to reproduce, and these trousers come in the same colour as their equally tight t-shirts and hoodies – black. The most naïve of these ‘emos’ listen to pop-punk bands such as Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance convinced that doing so somehow makes them hardcore or ‘hxc’. The more mature of them listen to shouty/screamy bands such as Atreyu and the band in question here, The Bled.
Of course, such pigeonholing of people is wrong but that’s pretty much how it is these days. Anyways…‘Pass the Flask’ is The Bled’s debut album. Released in 2003 on Sorepoint records, a label that at the time included New York pop-punk quartet Brand New, the album saw the band saw the quintet enjoy a great deal of success and exposure. Following its release they toured with Canadian post-hardcore mob Alexisonfire and became one of the world’s most popular metalcore bands. The first few tracks of this album would certainly seem to justify their popularity. ‘Red Wedding’
sees them at their angriest and heaviest. The song changes tempo dramatically showing that the heaviest songs are also the slowest as the lethargic chugging section at the end is the heaviest part of the album. It’s exciting stuff - but not as exciting as the next track. Originally named after deceased American race car driver Dale Earnhardt, ‘You Know Who’s Seatbelt’
is hands down, the best song on the album. With a tense guitar riff running through its verses along with James Munoz’s maniacal vocals it isn’t hard to imagine this sparking great pits in a live setting. The other well known song on the album, ‘I Never Met Another Gemini’
takes cues from its predecessors with tension building riffs in the chaotic first half of the song, before slowing down and building to a chugging breakdown. It displays a much more prominent sense of melody than ‘Red Wedding’ and ‘You Know Who’s Seatbelt’[/i]. These three tracks combine to make the start of ‘Pass the Flask’ very promising indeed. The rest of the album however, simply doesn’t match up.
It’s hard to pin-point exactly why this is. The fact that the majority of the album follows the same blueprints set out by the albums first three songs should ensure that all the tracks here are great, right? Wrong! 9/10 people would struggle to identify individual songs here even after a couple of listens. There is so much repetition here that it hurts. Munoz can be a very good vocalist, but when most of the songs here feature only screams it is hard to say this. The most obvious exception to this is the albums centrepiece ‘Porcelain Hearts and Hammers For Teeth’
. It is the albums slow song; the albums ballad, if you will – but not really. Ballads don’t feature mad Arizonians shrieking “I’ll burn alive for you”. This passionate confession comes after some rare, almost tender guitar melodies and gentle rhythmic work that lull the listener into a false sense of security before the song’s fiery conclusion. Next to it ‘Sound of Sulfur’
sounds very, very generic and unimpressive; its saving graces being the excellent drumming and the quirky, violent lyrics that are littered throughout the album. However, when the lyrics are ‘sung’ in an inaudible manner throughout the album, their impact is deadened. The weirdly titled ‘Get Up You Son Of A Bitch, ‘Cause Mickey Loves Ya’
also features intriguing lyrics such as “the telephone swallowed the child home” and “you smile like a catholic in heat” but a combination of its 1:30 running time and both music and vocals that are overly aggressive reduces the song to mediocrity.
While ‘Pass the Flask’ isn’t great at all (it is very, very average) it does show a lot of promise. They are heavy enough to appeal to those looking for a quick dose of brutality, and have a melodic side that shines through the mire, but isn’t used often enough to be a defining feature of their sound here. They were one of the first to dabble in the metalcore genre as we know it today, and it shows. It is at times very exciting (first three tracks), yet too much of the album is very disjointed and ultimately forgettable. It is as if they ran out of ideas very early on in the production of the album. Overall, ‘Pass the Flask’ can be a bit of a chore to listen to, yet I’m sure all those superficial teenage kids wearing black spandex-like trousers will have no problem listening to it in it’s entirety.