Review Summary: Blessthefall adhere to the formula and concoct a passable post-hardcore record.
It's pretty difficult to be original these days. In what is only a natural desire to innovate, musicians strive to be inventive with their music. This need to musically digress was the birth of most modern music and the conception of all of our lovely sub-genres. Experimentation is all around: growling girls are fronting grind bands with nospacesintheirbandnames, acoustic folk artists are slapping and tapping their guitar necks in efforts to be percussive and goofball metalheads are making 15-minute songs with hoedowns in them. Bands are constantly focused on discovering new outlandish, musical territories and capitalizing on their unorthodox quirks.
Enter blessthefall, a band that simply will not
innovate. Listening to their latest release, 2009's Witness
, it's obvious where the band gets their influence from. With the overall sound and composition technique of The Devil Wears Prada, the occasional bombastic Saosin-style chorus and the more-than-familar Inhale Exhale clean vocal delivery, it's obvious that blessthefall aren't the most original band to set foot on the scene. If anything, Witness
is a steadfast, refusal to concoct anything original; the band is a-okay with adhering to the blueprints laid out before them by other bands. What then do they focus on if not their own ingenuity? Well, to be fair, blessthefall seem to focus on having fun
and being catchy. Witness
isn't the most original or intelligent releases of the year (or of the decade), but it at least showcases a band making a passably enjoyable record without injecting synth-breakdowns or animal noises into the songwriting.
Is that good? For the most part, it's debatable.
Unfortunately for blessthefall, Witness
begin until fifth track 'Hey Baby, Here's That Song You Wanted'. Saosin-reminiscent riffs reverberate shamelessly behind vocalist Beau Bokan's Ryland Raus impersonation throughout the song's verses while the chorus explodes into a climactic, catchy hook: "Hey baby, are you alone tonight?
" (yes, while the band won't win awards for lyricism, the melody is infallible). Witness
reaches it's musical height on 'We'll Sleep When We're Dead', which starts forebodingly with a lone synth before exploding into a thunderous, tom-beating hook-a-thon, brimming with textures and riffs. Oh, the riffs? They're really not bad at all. Mike Frisby and Eric Lambert keep things varied and relatively interesting guitar-wise with their cutting, concise riffs (see 'You Deserve Nothing and I Hope You Get Less' for a gratuitously-Underoath-y buffet of licks) and make the most tedious parts of the album bearable.
Yet despite a couple stand out songs, the majority of Witness
is a blur of same-y post-hardcore that is wholly forgettable, even after repeated listens. Opener/introduction track '2.0' is arguably the most atrocious thing the band has concocted, with it's snarky attitude ("We're not dead! We're not like you said!"
) and ultimate uselessness. Breakdowns are peppered like popcorn seasoning throughout the record and Warth's harsh vocals are laughable at best -- try not to crack up when he tries to reach bellowing lows that are far beyond his personal range. Tracks like 'God Wears Gucci' and 'What's Let of Me' are aggressive gems stolen right off of Underoath's They're Only Chasing Safety
and despite having a few pleasant moments littered amongst the tracks, the songs blur the lines between being influenced
by a band and ripping off a band
. Yet despite all the discrepancies in blessthefall's approach, the most glaring fault with Witness
is it's lack of variation. Despite being delightfully scarce in it's attempts to "innovate" (there is
one synth introduction or two), it is still a bit too stingy with it's variation. By the end of Witness
, the listener has been stranded upon a white-washed, island of wholly familiar post-hardcore and identical breakdowns -- where fun is encouraged but variation is condemned.
Adding all of these elements together makes Witness
a fairly polarizing listen. On one hand, the record is a breath of fresh air created by a band that isn't bent on being "intelligent metal" - they just want to make fun, tolerable music. On the other hand, Witness
is so incredibly stagnant and repetitive that it's hard to decide whether blessthefall's tendency to be influenced only by other bands and not by themselves is a good thing or not. Ultimately, Witness
is okay. It's not terrible, yet it could've been a lot better. You can either thank the band for keeping things simple or grind them into the ground for being unoriginal. Yet you can't deny that the band at least has potential on Witness
-- whether they realize this potential or not will likely become evident later on.