Review Summary: Bleeding Through aim for the stars and hit a space station.
One of the strongest traits a band can have is the ability to be consistent. The very definition of consistency, however, is open for debate, and where a band should be most consistent is subjective at best. What’s expected of a band and what they can accomplish are two abstract, undefined things, yet constantly bands are chastised for failing to “achieve” what they were supposed to. Weird, isn’t it, when a band does everything one would expect them to?
is a California six-piece, hailing from that favorable cesspool of musical quality, Orange County. With intricate guitar lines, twin-guitar harmonies and vicious vocals, Bleeding Through
made a name for themselves with their first few albums. An outcry was heard upon the release of their fourth album, the hilariously titled The Truth
, where they took a softer, more melodic approach and created what was essentially watered down metalcore (oxymoron?). Following this release, fans were excited to see where the band would take their sound. Combining the relentless energy of old releases with the melodic edge of The Truth
, the band released their fifth effort Declaration
. First it must be understood: metalcore is a fragile, fragile child. Born of the angry, volatile nature of hardcore and the technical, relentless mistress that is metal, metalcore seemed destined to fail from the very beginning. Declaration
, then, stands as a testament to the will of this prophecy. Bleeding Through
have copied the How-To-Play-The-Metalcores textbook word for word (and added bits of graffiti here and there) and what they have accomplished is nothing better than mediocre.
The end result, then, is a completely contrived example of all showmanship and no depth. It is clear that Bleeding Through
is a band filled with extremely competent musicians, adept at playing their instruments skillfully and writing their own material. That is not as much of an accomplishment, however, when it is considered that, much akin to thrash, there are only a couple dozen metalcore riffs anyway. It may be that the band members are aware of this genre-defining handicap, and have sought out to give themselves a wild card: a keyboardist. It must then be asked: how many bands exist today that have a non-extraneous keyboardist? The correct answer is not exact or definite, one of approximation: somewhere around almost none. To put it in basic terms, the use of the keyboardist in the band’s music seems to be to distract the listener from the fact that they probably heard the riff they are listening to on a Poison the Well album. There is no substance, no depth, no aesthetic appeal to adding a “bwee” to a “chug”. There is no point in harmonizing a keyboard with a guitar when the guitar lines are already harmonized themselves. In its absolute simplest, the keyboardist in Bleeding Through
is to their music as the first Starbucks on a corner is to the second Starbucks on that exact same corner. The saving grace of this seemingly existence validation defying keyboardist is her work on the orchestra in the first and last tracks; she composed the pieces preceding and succeeding those tracks, respectively. With the promise showed on these tracks, said composer may be better suited sticking to other types of music, displaying a grace and finesse not evident on the rest of the album.
When listening to metalcore, a key complaint of those who are too quick to voice their discomfort is that there are breakdowns, oh so many breakdowns. They call to arms, saying it ruins the music. Asking for the breakdowns to be removed from metalcore is quite like asking for the legs to be removed from a chair: it kind of defeats the purpose of why it was created. Without the breakdowns, it would just be metal. The key question at hand is whether that would be best: considering the display on Declaration
, the answer to that inquiry may just be yes. Of important note is the tendency of lead annoyance Brandon to yell “COME ON” or “GO” right before a breakdown, as though assuming the listener is not perceptive enough to discriminate a difference in tempo. All breakdowns on the album, all of them, are in either half time or quarter time. There is no variation to this. All breakdowns on the album follow the “chug + blastbeat” formula: all guitar notes are covered with the bass pedal. When presented with a situation like this, one may wonder why the band bothered at all. At best, their attempts at adding an interesting dynamic have lengthened the song, and at worst, they have soiled what could have been a valiant attempt at songwriting.
Lyrically speaking, the band should be struck with a ledger for being so juvenile. Unnecessary swearing and over the top political tomfoolery run amok, as well as the obligatory “My girl loved me but now she’s gone and I am just so, so sad that I am filled with angry anger” song. Presented here is an example of a literary joke:
This road I know is dark and cold
and I’ve given everything to these roads I know
I’ve given it my all
Dark and Cold
That scribed blasphemy was taken from The Loving Memory of England. Some might say it is deep; not so, it is just trite and vapid; similar examples are scattered all across the album. Although entirely unrelated to the music itself, the manner in which the lyrics are laid out in their booklet is so confusing, it’s hard not to suspect that they had M. C. Escher do it. As far as lyrical witticism goes, their writers are more similar to a hammer than a dagger; they have a point and decide to beat the listener over the head with it until they either reject or accept the message. A simple, effective method, save for the fact that none of the messages are worth listening to.
The band’s strongest trait is easily their ability to get a lot of energy going. They use this energy adeptly, letting it shape and twist their sound. Many of the songs are in fact very simplistic, an exercise in mediocrity, yet they have a subtle, elusive charm to them. As a unit, the band clearly works best as a sum of their wholes. If not creative, the band is at least very effective at keeping the listeners’ attention. This is most evident when their melodic edge is hinted at strongly; it is most apparent on any song with clean vocals. The paradox, then, is that the music is wholly uninteresting yet strangely captivating at the same time. Only once on the album does the band pull through and create something actually worth listening to, on the last track Sister Charlatan. A roaring example of crushing riffs, sweeping melodies and well sung choruses, Sister Charlatan is a fantastic example of everything that can be done correctly in both metalcore and just metal in general. If not for this single song, the entire album might fall apart.
is an example of a band realizing a dream, a dream of being the best boring band they can be. Unfortunately for the listeners, the best boring can be is worse than the worst interesting can be. Get Sister Charlatan and forget the rest; even if a cursory listen is given, the rest will be forgotten regardless.