Review Summary: Dreamy Introductions
Personally, I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of Blindfolded And Led To The Woods until one of those special
emails hit my inbox. Admittedly, I was curious. For it’s not everyday
that albums with references to Ulcerate, Nile and Spook The Horses all hit at once. Thankfully, the presser seemingly explained itself when it mentioned a number of features and that the artists behind this project also came from New Zealand (the birthplace of Ulcerate if you’re having trouble following my rambling introduction). Still, there were some questions left unanswered here: Like why were the likes of Ulcerate being brought to air in the first place? Sure, Blindfolded And Led To The Woods (now shortened to BALTTW for brevity’s sake) heil from the same country as their death metal brethren (as mentioned above)...and yet pigeon-holing one to the other because of a genre tag is seemingly counterproductive. Largely, and despite both group’s stranglehold on the death metal genre, I feel that sweeping descriptions barely ever get to the core of what Band “A” or “B” actually sounds like. That’s where (and quite predictably so) the ear comes in. While BALTTW strobes and darts away from the prolific Ulceratian soundscape. The band themselves are more akin to the likes of chaotic contemporaries, Pyrrhon and in lesser parts, Gorguts—and yet, Nightmare Withdrawals
’ sound spirals, drenched in discordant notes and dissonant modernism while blending the borders between grind, black metal and positive atmosphere. Make no mistake; death metal (of the technical kind) reigns supreme here.
Despite my contemplative musings on how artists should, or should not be advertised I’ll also admit that I do find some
working similarities between these Christchurch tech heads and that “other” New Zealand band. This is mostly because of Nightmare Withdrawals
forward thinking soundscapes. “The Inevitable Fate of the Universe” lurches into a driving rhythm that interplays the furor of the band’s riff and drumming combinations and weaving melodic trills before taking every left hand path available to them musically. Needless to say, BALTTW’s third album is hardly idle, choosing to take the natural density technical death metal has to offer and deconstructing it with moments of grind, post and black before reassembling, readdressing and ultimately, churning through walls of unwavering heaviness.
The one-two punch of “Black Air” and “...And You Will Try To Speak” continues to heft slabs of technically proficient death metal into the lofty reaches usually only given to the genre’s forefathers (and of course Ulcerate), but it also provides a moment or two of tranquil clarity—a direct contrast to the jarring rhythms that dominate the back half of “...And You Will Try To Speak” before moving into the album’s middle section that’s somehow thicker, and higher quality.
It’s here that we see the other end of the band’s press work fleshed out. Namely, the Nile featurette found in “Atop the Wings of a Magpie” where the vocal contributions of Karl Sanders belch over chaotic flourishes and deathly romp alike. His contribution itself isn’t mind-blowing, but having the extra weight of a death metal staple feature on an album already this strong has some definite upsides. Likewise, Spook The Horses led, “Lucid Visitations” heaves on atmosphere utilizing Callum Gay’s vocals as an instrument, interplaying with the more sombre takes the album has to offer. The track itself does eventually explode into punchy madness, but its bite is remarkably less furious, favouring a more cathartic, all-around progressive atmosphere.
The titular track teeters on the edge of summarising the entirety of the record so far, and all within a comparatively short run time of two and a half minutes, but somehow is the least impressive offering to be found on this forty minute display of blasting, growling and spiralling death. Nightmare Withdrawals
is gritty, fluid and remarkably fresh among a quickly filling pool of technical death metal. Whether it’s the burrowing leads or quieter introspective chord progressions of “Rorschach and Delirium” which find themselves understated by the album’s more prominent featurettes or the clear overall production values that present clear notes without robbing BALTTW of a natural, organic prose there’s something here that most tech-death fans can appreciate, fall in love with or even pine after...in a few years.
In places, Nightmare Withdrawals
is dizzying, but it’s also contrastingly calm, pensive and explorative. With all the great music being released this year, it’s almost stupefying that BALTTW’s third offering can stand amongst such prolific records and still hold their own. With all the hyperbolic talk of Ulcerate being thrown around by the guys running BALTTW’s press and marketing there’s probably some expectation for hype. Instead, BALTTW lives up to the hype to release an album that will be ranked amongst some of the best music of 2021.