(Andy Synn celebrates the 50th edition of his SYNN REPORT by reviewing the discography of the late Bleeding Through from Orange County, CA.)
Recommended for fans of: Vader, Anaal Nathrakh, Earth Crisis
So this is kind of a big deal, right? 50 editions (not counting special editions or catch-up features) of my inane ramblings about bands you may or may not like, without so much as a protest or petition calling for me to be fired. It’s practically a miracle I tell you.
I chose Bleeding Through for the singular honour of being the fiftieth recipient of The Synn Report because a) the band recently played their final show, and I wanted to commemorate that, and b) they’ve been one of my favourites ever since I first discovered them.
And also because it’s my column, so I get to pick the bands.
Now I know many of you will have been put off by the “metalcore” tag so frequently applied to the band, and their unfortunate association with the more commercially inclined members of that movement, but honestly, a lot of their material is both legitimately heavy and uncompromisingly brutal – a mix of blistering blast-beats and bruising break-downs, crushing riffs, creeping keys, and caustic screams – taking in a much wider variety of influences than many of their peers.
With elements and influences drawn from everyone from Emperor to Earth Crisis to Exodus, the band’s sound mixes many of the best bits of Death, Thrash, and Black Metal with the uncompromising intensity and integrity of Hardcore at its most primal and primitive.
After the jump you’ll find a selection of the band’s heaviest, most metallically devastating tracks, in the hope of convincing some of you to give these underrated underdogs another chance!
DUST TO ASHES – 2001
Dust To Ashes has a certain primitive savagery to it that makes it an extremely compelling listen. The sheer aural violence of “Turns Cold to the Touch”, with its visceral mix of searing tremolo, thrashing riffs, and chugging Death Metal influences, mixes touches of Slayer with Suffocation amidst a whirling dervish of Cro-Magnon hardcore energy and eerie, blackened atmosphere, while the bouncy and belligerent “Hemlock Society” matches berserker speed and bludgeoning slowness to lethal effect.
“Just Another Pretty Face” is a ravenous blackened death metalcore hybrid of a song, almost tripping over itself in sheer apoplectic fury and rage, moving from chaingun blasts to scattershot chugging to bleak melodic contemplation, topped off by Brandan Schiepatti’s agonised roar and vengeful, venomous lyrics.
“I Dream of July” throws something of a melodic curveball at the listener to start with, its dual guitar work and ambient keys weaving a series of unusual harmonies and straining melodies quite unlike most of what has gone before. Of course, the introduction of a truly nasty thrash riff at 1:16 changes all that, the song quickly shedding its earlier form in favour of something faster, heavier, and altogether more dissonant, before the blast-beats and breakdown brutality of “Oedipus Complex” sweeps in, all guns blazing, to mop up the last of your resistance.
The album closes with “Thrones of Agony”, which, after a short introductory bloom of piano and clean guitar, erupts into an absolute monster of unrepentant extremity and cold, callous hooks, switching wildly between rumbling death-riffage, chugging hardcore rhythms, and barbed wire tremolo work in one final conflagration of raw, uncompromising ferocity and rage.
PORTRAIT OF THE GODDESS – 2002
Album number 2 by the Californian pain-bringers saw the band’s sound take a major step-up in terms of tightness and clarity, meaning that re-recorded versions of “Just Another Pretty Face”, “Turns Cold To The Touch” and “I Dream of July” all hit harder and with a sharper edge than before. The new material also benefits from these sonic improvements, as the thrashy intensity and Death Metal-meets-Hardcore animosity of “Rise” comes across like early The Haunted, only with more keys and blast-beats scattered liberally throughout.
The booming guitars and ghostly keyboards which introduce “Our Enemies” soon develop into a full-tilt gallop of savagely Swedish riffage and winding tremolo melodies, broken up here and there by a brutalizing hardcore break-down, twisting solo, or anguished clean vocal, followed by the frenzied aggression and juddering rhythms of “Wake of Orion”, which packs in everything but the kitchen sink into its 5:25 run-time.
“Savior, Saint, Salvation” begins with a lengthy instrumental introduction of drifting piano and soft clean guitar, before eventually transforming into a prime piece of post-At The Gates style Swedish melodeath riffage and jarring angular Hardcore, both utterly ferocious and topped off with unexpected moments of outright extremity.
“Portrait of the Goddess” blasts straight out of the gates with unrestrained violence and nihilistic fury, driven by Derek Youngsma’s battering-ram drum work, before carving itself a raw, ugly groove that’s part seething metallised Hardcore antagonism and part Cannibal Corpse-esque Death Metal avalanche, backed by layers of phantom keyboard ambience and some impressively precise fretwork.
Album closer “Insomniac” bears its strains of mutated Slayer DNA loudly and proudly, intermingling them with moments of blackened hail and dissonant aggression, ultimately culminating in a surprisingly melodic and affecting finale.
THIS IS LOVE, THIS IS MURDEROUS – 2003
The band’s third album was the one that broke the band into the wider public consciousness, largely because of the airplay that both “Love Lost In A Hail of Gunfire” and “On Wings of Lead” received on MTV 2 (remember that?). It helps of course that both are undeniably fantastic songs.
The former is perhaps the perfect microcosm of the band’s signature sound – its rapid-fire drum work and scalding riffage (heavy and hooky in equal measure) topped off with a series of impressively athletic bass lines and a truly emotive vocal performance that switches from ravenously intense to soulfully melodic without sacrificing an ounce of honesty or integrity. The latter is just as intense and infectious, with an utterly compelling central riff refrain, and a murderously melodic chorus, backup by some truly razor-sharp drumming.
There’s much more to the album than just the two singles though. “What I Bleed Without You” swings the needle almost into Death-Thrash territory with its jagged riffs and rumbling bass work, while the title-track chugs and churns, twists and turns, through a series of violent, thrashing rhythms and coiled, melodeath riffs, with a fantastic injection of melody in the second half, and some great interplay between Schiepatti’s clean and harsh vocals.
“City of the Condemned” meshes and melds all the band’s heaviest and harshest influences into one glorious conflagration, starting off life as a Limbonic Art style blizzard of tremolo’d guitars and scalding blast-beats, and finishing things off with a dash of pure Hardcore hostility, interweaving moments of mammoth Death Metal riffage and serpentine melody along the way.
Utterly unforgiving, yet deceptively technical in places, “Murder by Numbers” is a straight-up shock to the system, exploding like an antipersonnel device of pure sonic devastation, spitting molten metal shrapnel in all directions. It’s followed by the vehement heaviness and fiery hooks of “Dead By Me”, which rages through a tumultuous series of rampaging riffs and rancorous vocals, before bringing the house down with a penultimate, apocalyptic Death Metal breakdown.
The album’s final track is the scintillatingly aggressive “Revenge I Seek”, a butcher’s bonanza of heaving, choppy riffs and hammer-blow percussion that takes no prisoners and pulls no punches with its bone-crushing drumming and scything riffs, closing the album in a visceral explosion of hate-fuelled wrath and ruin.
THE TRUTH – 2006
Notably the most melodic of the band’s albums, The Truth was very much a conscious attempt by Bleeding Through to “break” the mainstream, while still trying to retain their integrity. And while the album did garner the band an increasing measure of success, critical reception was a lot more mixed. In hindsight though, there’s some damn good material on The Truth, beginning with the barbaric “For Love and Failing”, whose blast and bludgeon approach picks up right where This is Love… left off, albeit with perhaps a greater emphasis placed on the clean vocals when they make their appearance.
The prominent Slayer-isms and unsettling keyboard melodies of “Love in Slow Motion” set the stage for a compelling chorus refrain, one that’s both highly melodic and incredibly memorable, but also counterbalanced nicely by the blasts and beat-downs that litter the rest of the track. It’s followed by the serrated Thrash riffs and choking Hardcore chugging of “The Painkiller”, which offers a welcome injection of venom and bile to the proceedings, untainted by commercial concerns.
By contrast, “Kill to Believe” really is a song of two halves. On the one hand it’s incredibly thrashy and technical, with its pulse-pounding drum work and razor-blade riffs positively rippling with unconstrained aggression. On the other it’s also incredibly and shamelessly infectious, with a stadium-sized (albeit slightly melodramatic) chorus refrain and a nice line in gleaming keyboard melodies. It’s a song that demands you either love it or hate it, there is no middle ground.
“Dearly Demented” ups the heaviness quotient once more, with its cyanide-laced thrash riffs and crashing chords built around a malevolently melodic clean chorus and utterly punishing bridge section, and it’s followed by the unexpectedly emotional, ballad-esque “Line In The Sand” and the punk fuelled, metal-injected, hardcore belligerence of “She’s Gone”.
I’ll finish off this one by talking about “Tragedy of Empty Streets”, one of the band’s most unappreciated compositions. Three minutes of lethally precise riffage and technical torment, its massive, twisted riffs and coldly calculating rhythms share more than a few elements in common with British misanthropes Anaal Nathrakh — a similarity which actually grew to become even more apparent on subsequent albums.
DECLARATION – 2008
Harsher, heavier, with a much greater helping of blackened venom and sheer brutality, the stark contrast between Declaration and its predecessor is almost shocking to encounter the first time you hear it.
From the moment “Declaration (You Can’t Destroy What You Can Not Replace” kicks into extreme gear with a maniacal flurry of scorched earth blasting and storm-driven riffage, topped off by a series of skittering keyboard parts and throat-rending howls, you know you’re in for a blindingly intense experience.
“Germany” is a sadistic congregation of jarring hardcore rhythms, creeping dissonance, thrashy energy, and juddering Death Metal riffage, while the atmospheric introduction of “There Was A Flood” errs much more towards the melodic end of the Black Metal spectrum, before transforming into the unholy offspring of Slaughter of the Soul-era At The Gates and Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia-era Dimmu Borgir.
“French Inquisition” is a death-inflected mix of razor-edged, thrashy metalcore and coldly melodic Black Metal that swerves and stabs and slices with reckless abandon, leading straight into the malevolent hostility and furious drumming of “Reborn from Isolation”, with its intriguing mix of pounding rhythms and sinister blackened melody.
“Death Anxiety” begins as a stunningly destructive piece of Anaal Nathrakh worshipping industrialised blackened aggression, moving from blasting thrashery to machine-like chuggery, via a desolately melodic, yet still disarmingly heavy, chorus, while the finger-shredding riffs and uncompromising brutality of “Beneath The Grey” will suit fans of Black Anvil and their ilk to perfection.
The album closes (not counting the fantastic bonus track “Self-Defeating Anthem”) with “Sister Charlatan”, a final climactic distillation of poisonous blackened melody and feral aggression delivered in a blitzkrieg of paint-stripping blast beats, flesh-tearing riffs, and heart-rending vocals.
BLEEDING THROUGH – 2010
The band’s decision to self-title their sixth album makes perfect sense in hindsight. It’s a near perfect distillation of all the best elements of their sound, with more blasting, more guitar solos, more scorching riffage and ghostly keys, and just more intensity, meaning that the stripped-back clean vocals (when they do make their appearance) have more impact as a result.
“Anti-Hero” is a straight-up assault on the listener, a hurricane of blasting ferocity and sharpened Thrash riffs married to an undercurrent of scathing dissonance and heaving Death Metal rhythms, followed immediately by the bleak grandiosity of “Your Abandonment”, whose haunting keyboards and crushing, leviathan riffs (courtesy of Dave Nassie and Brian Leppke) have more than a few echoes of Vader to them.
“Fifteen Minutes” keeps the pace high and the adrenaline pumping with its powerhouse, down-picked riffery and manic drum work. Marta’s dark keyboard presence is strikingly prominent throughout, though never at the expense of the cutting guitars or Schieppati’s vengeful vocals.
Talking of vocals, the first time that the band’s cleans rear their head is on “Salvation Never Found”, the song’s skyscraping chorus refrain blooming into life following an impressively intense series of nimble thrash riffs, searing tremolo runs, and neck-wrenching blast beats.
“Breathing in the Wrath” certainly has more than a few hints of Anaal Nathrakh to it, from the artillery strike of the opening breakdown, to the devastating rain of blast-beats that follows, right up to the unexpectedly melodic, keyboard drenched and guitar-led finale, while “This Time Nothing Is Sacred” starts off as a tightly welded piece of thrash-fuelled mayhem, before deploying some napalm-level blast work and haunting keyboard/piano atmospherics to change things up a notch.
The multifaceted drumming talents of Derek Youngsma almost steal the show entirely on “Divide The Armies”, but they are given a damn good run for their money by the ravenous, blackened-death-thrash riffage of Nassie and Lepke, and Schieppati’s distinctive mixing of bestial roars and worn, wounded clean vocals.
The album climaxes with the slow-burning desolation of “Distortion, Devotion”, melding the band’s melodic and misanthropic sides seamlessly, moving from a thrashing gallop to a mesmerising clean-sung chorus in a glorious display of seething pain and anguish.
THE GREAT FIRE – 2012
The band’s swansong is a brutal slab of metallic might, definitely their heaviest offering, with a truly monstrous guitar tone and crushing drumming that swings their sound ever closer to the Death Metal end of the scale, without abandoning the distinctive Black Metal influences or the Hardcore foundations which have become a part of their unique sonic signature.
The sub-two-minute blitz of “Faith in Fire” is the sound of divine wrath in musical form, a genocidal eruption of Slayer-on-steroids riffs, berserker Hardcore intensity, and throat-shredding vocal aggression, which slams straight into the gargantuan guitars and oppressive keys of “Goodbye to Death”, Marta’s fleet fingers weaving a dark and spellbinding atmosphere amidst the controlled chaos and carnage.
Massive gang vocals and a thunderous, rumbling bass presence are underpinned by a truly violent drumming performance on the frenzied ferocity of “Final Hours”, building to a darkly melodic chorus refrain that counterbalances the early aggression with a touch of wounded, elegiac beauty. The song absolutely crushes, by the way, and leads seamlessly into the blackened death swagger of “Starving Vultures”, which benefits from a prominent keyboard presence, where subtle notes and poisoned melodies slither in and around the megaton riffs and cataclysmic breakdowns.
Marta’s intricate keys have certainly taken on a much more prominent role on this album, carrying the brunt of the melodic legwork and allowing the guitars to stay lower, harder, and heavier for longer – enhancing the overall brutality, rather than taking away from it. This is particularly evident on the bombastic bludgeon of “Walking Dead”, where the keyboard and synth work gives the whole song a darkly demonic air, and the melodic menace of “The Devil and Self-Doubt”, where the blackened energy and soaring clean chorus are accentuated by Marta’s nimble orchestration and synthetic ambience.
“Trail of Seclusion” is a mini-epic in itself, with a flowing guitar-lead-soaked introduction, shifting into a series of pneumatic riff bombs, laser-guided tremolo runs, and a humongous clean chorus, mixing dramatic harmony and hostility with truly thunderous heaviness.
The album ends with the bone-grinding crunch of “Entrenched”, which sounds like Dimmu Borgir engaged in a knife-fight with Napalm Death, and the rage-filled requiem of “Back To Life”, which marries a series of potent and punishing grooves to a sense of scarred and wounded melody.
Why did these guys call it a day again? They were awesome
I think after seven albums and quite a long career, with a LOT of set-backs on the way, they just felt the need for a break. Hopefully it’s not permanent, as I think the last 3 albums are easily the best they’ve done.
I hope you’re right, because I agree completely with your statement that their latest offerings were their best!