To Those Left Behind

Written by: TL on 24/09/2015 18:52:46

Arizona-based metalcore stalwarts Blessthefall have been one of the most reliable groups in the genre, ever since emerging with current singer Beau Bokan on their 2009 sophomore album "Witness". Whatever happened, you knew that you could count on these dudes to do the conventional "screamed verse/clean chorus" approach and do it better than most, courtesy of some routinely blazing guitar melodies and contrastingly punishing bass breakdowns holding up the instrumental end of their soundscape. And well, at the very least they deserve a medal for consistency because at first glance at least little has changed on their newest opus "To Those Left Behind".

"Decayer" opens the new record with mosh-friendly, reverb-laden barrages of bass notes, while futuristic ambiance and piercing guitar notes ring from the background. Jared Warth's growls are up first, sounding thick enough, but in honest, these are where Blessthefall have developed the least of all places, with Warth sounding no better or worse than most proficient growlers in the genre. Bokan predictably follows with a bittersweet clean hook and well, so far, and for much of the record indeed, it takes some effort to pick up on any outstanding developments.

The following song, the single choice "Walk On Water", does provide an exception, however, thriving on more contrasting guitar work with both tapped leads and tremolo in the mix, while there's a choir effect backing up Bokan's hook here that gives the song some extra power. The same choir effect is revisited with solid impact later on the record on the song "Oathbreaker", helping the intended melodic part of an otherwise more aggressive track stand out above the average impression you get from the album. And if there's some development to speak of, it feels like Blessthefall have done most work on implementing some more diversity and electronics across the melodic half of their soundscape. "Dead Air" for instance, has straight up anthemic atmosphere going, while "Looking Down From The Edge" starts with a rave-like bit of synth before settling to a crawling, faded club-like beat, with Bokan heading into slightly r&b-like vocal melodies. This song, as well as "Keep What We Want And Burn The Rest" and "Condition // Comatose" sound more like something you'd expect Issues or Slaves to mix into their heaviness than Blessthefall, who have normally kept things a bit more aggressive or dramatic, as is more traditional for the metal genres.

An exception pulling in the opposite direction is the song "Against The Waves", which feels more like metallic hardcore than actual metalcore, coming off as perhaps the most hardcore sounding track the band has written to date. There are even gang vocals in the speedy pre-chorus, although things head back into more familiar territory for the actual chorus, reminding you that you are still not quite listening to Comeback Kid.

The problem is, though, that these developments feel like small nuances that are embedded too deeply into the otherwise routine-sounding Blessthefall production. Unless you're completely new to the band, you're unlikely to even notice these things because of how much the record's tone sounds like Blessthefall usually does, and this is a problem, because the hook-strength is arguably weaker on average here than on previous outings. In short, "To Those Left Behind" sounds so much like a record Blessthefall has made two or three times before, that it takes some extra effort to notice that there is some change about. And even so, this change is hardly that gratifying even when you do make note of it. So while it is about time that we see the band branch out just a bit, this is a case where even more daring could have potentially helped to pull returning listeners more strongly towards the new songs. As it is, however, the band's efforts are not quite enough to prevent reactions a lá: "Hmm, solid Blessthefall record as usual, which is getting a bit unexciting by now."

Download: Walk On Water, Against The Waves, Oathbreaker
For The Fans Of: The Word Alive, Adept, A Skylit Drive, Bring Me The Horizon

Release date 18.09.2015
Fearless Records

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