Review Summary: Blessthefall makes a shift to more of a "metalcore" sound but still falls into the same rut as the previous albums.
Blessthefall hasn't been known as a band to make great strides in the metalcore/posthardcore genre. Instead, they tend to stick to a formula. Rinse and repeat. With Hollow Bodies however, there are indeed some noticeable attempts to break out of the rut they have dug themselves into and create an album that is enjoyable but not exactly moving.
The first track shows a blanket of what most of the album will sound like. It is also one of the more enjoyable songs on the album, showcasing great guitar work, excellent uncleans, cleans, and an overall charging sound interrupted by soft interludes and buildups. This song itself is what the rest of the album should've sound like, but quickly after this song, blessthefall drops back into it's old tendencies.
One of those tendencies is an over-abundance of breakdowns, especially towards the center of the album. A breakdown is fine every now and then in the genre, but over using them comes off as lazy and unimaginative. Replace the filler breakdowns with the guitar work seen in the first song, and this album would've easily jumped up a few ratings.
Building off of inconsistent musicianship, is the drums. It has been pretty consistent in every album that double bass runs are used in just about every song. This may not be noticeable to people who aren't drummers, but to others, it becomes tedious. The drummer is obviously capable of great fills and footwork, but it is too often that he resorts to a constant 16th note pattern.
There has been little improvement in the unclean vocalist's range. His screams are in the middle register, and they very rarely ever shift upwards or downwards. This adds on to the repetitive nature of the music and becomes stale after only a few spins of the album. There are a few shining moments where the unclean vocalist shouts or hits higher notes, but those moments are few and far between and aren't exactly shimmering when compared to other popular unclean vocalists.
Clean vocals are hit and miss. Beau Bokan has a predominantly high voice. The melodies he runs tend to be too simplistic, and the lyrics don't help deepen his portion of the music either. You will either enjoy his voice or hate it.
There are many guest vocalists on this album, as well as a guest-written song. The guest-written song is "See you on the outside" co-written by Pierce the Veil's vocalist Vic Fuentes. It's an interesting song, but you can tell the song was definitely meant to be played by Pierce the Veil. It has all the elements of a PtV song minus the Mexican influence that appears in their music every now and then. Despite not exactly being blessthefall material, the song is easily one of the more ear-catching songs on the album.
First guest vocalist to appear is Jesse Barnett of Stick to your Guns on the track "Youngbloods". He doesn't really add much with his unclean vocals underlying blessthefall's unclean vocals. The song changes the formula a bit, and we get to see blessthefall take a few steps down the more punk/metalcore path.
Second guest vocalist is Jake Luhrs of August Burns Red on track "Carry on". It's hard to imagine that blessthefall wrote this song without outside influence from ABR. The song itself takes many elements from ABR and twists and forms it to match what their normal repertoire consists of. Jake Luhrs appearance is very brief, but still likeable nonetheless.
Final guest vocalist is Lights on the final track "Open Water". It's a slow ballad consisting of trade-offs between Beau and Lights. There isn't much experimentation or risk taking with this song, but it is still otherwise an enjoyable song.
With this album, it seems that blessthefall attempted to branch out by taking on elements from other metalcore bands and even including a song that could've been a Pierce the Veil song, but these "borrowings" don't cover up the repetitive nature of the album. The band isn't bad, it just isn't making much progress in maturing or growing into their sound. On a personal note, I could easily see them going down the more progressive route. They definitely have the guitar-power and drum-work to do so, but it is possible that they are being held back musically by the vocals that refuse to leave the "scene" genre.
See you on the outside