Review Summary: Do not revive me
It feels weird to be writing a review for an Oh, Sleeper album in 2019. It has been seven years since their last full length release and five years since the band went on their impromptu hiatus. The band had been teasing new material for years, with the song "Oxygen being released back in late 2016. I and many other fans thought the album would never be released, and Oh, Sleeper in my mind would be remembered as a talented metalcore band that never capitalized on their potential they showed on their three previous albums. Yet, here we are. Oh, Sleeper are back, now only a three-piece, to give their listeners closure if nothing else with their long awaited fourth full-length record.
For this band only being a three-piece, the music on this album sounds absolutely massive. The guitars chug aggressively along with the deafening drums during the heavier breakdown sections of songs like "The Island" and "Decimation & Burial" while also showing off Shane Blay's riffs and delicate picking on sections of "Two Ships" and closer "The Summit." Zac Mayfield is no slouch behind the kit either, as he gives his best performance of his career on songs like opener "Let It Wave" and "Mutinous."
The most notable thing about the album is the vocals of screamer Micah Kinard. Micah had always been a beast behind the mic, but on Bloodied/Unbowed he sounds like an absolute animal. His visceral screams scrape across the songs like he's gargling broken glass in his black hole of a throat. Micah also utilized gutturals on this album, and he manages to stand up to most contemporary death metal vocalists throughout the record. Shane Blay's cleans as always act as a nice counterbalance to Micah's snarling growls. Shane used his time in Wovenwar to further refine his voice and this album has his best vocal performance to date.
As usual, a major part of any Oh, Sleeper album is the lyrics. Before the hiatus, the band had almost become an outlet for the differing views of both vocalists. On Bloodied/Unbowed, The lyrics are more abstract, but Micah's lyrics mostly seem to deal with humanity's ego, and the human need to align themselves to something. Opener "Let It Wave" acts as a biting critique of nationalism to the point of blind faith and tracks like Mutinous have lines like "I'd rather die than to give up control, no one's voice is louder, or head is taller, or vision is brighter than my own" showing the deepest reaches of human ego and need to control. James' lyrics seem to deal with letting things go with lines from "Fissure" stating "Are you the one who raised the dead in me, I'll give you anything, Do not revive me" or lyrics dealing with leaving something good for something lesser with lines like "Why leave the fire to chase an ember?" or "I'd give it all up for one more day at the bottom." It's hard to not think James is talking about the band as he sings these lyrics. The album feels much darker and more visceral than their previous material overall.
With Bloodied/Unbowed, Oh, Sleeper finally capitalize on the promise that their previous material showed and released their best album to date, full of a raw energy and passion that they've never reached before. I don't know if this is the start of a new era for Oh, Sleeper, or if it will stand as their swan song, but regardless it stands as some of the best metalcore of the year and stands alone as the shining jewel of the band's discography.