(TheMadIsraeli reviews the eagerly awaited second album by Bloodshot Dawn.)
I’ve been anticipating this ever since their debut came out. Bloodshot Dawn’s debut self-titled SAVED melodic death metal for me. It seemed that the only thing you could turn to for truly good melodic death metal was the doom-flavored Daylight Dies/In Mourning stuff. That stuff is excellent, and is one of my favorite musical developments in metal, but there hasn’t really been a champion for fast, aggressive, and riffy melodic death metal to prove it’s not an irrelevant copy-cat circle jerk. Bloodshot Dawn is now that champion.
Of course, I was apprehensive about whether Demons would be able to live up to its predecessor. The self-titled is so well-written and the perfect 50/50 split between melodic death metal and straight death metal that the balance the band established seemed like it would be a very delicate thing to maintain. With their second album, I have to say I think this is my first legit album of the year candidate, and it’s looking likely that it will be my album of the year in a few months time.
Demons is absolutely loaded to fuck with riff-borne artillery that could obliterate First World countries, a three-pronged vocal assault that sounds like a pack of dogs of war, and some truly virtuoso-level shred and solo composition. The way they splay your guts on the floor with a commitment to epic melodies and savage riffery is something I’ve found really unusual for this year, considering most of my best-loved albums so far have been atonal tech or progressive death metal.
This album also proves that frontman Josh McMorran and fretboard scorcher Benjamin Ellis are one of THE standout new guitar duos in the scene right now. The riff craft of these two, their interplay and their solos, are on par with — and maybe beyond — the Gothenburg old guard. I’m quite enthralled with this record in every single way.
Just the opener “Smoke And Mirrors” alone is a magnificent piece of piston-driven impact force — with an epic saturated in 80’s cheese dual-guitar intro that bleeds into a galloping war march. The central riff of the song is a fire- and brimstone-fueled piece of thrash that could’ve been on Soilwork’s The Chainheart Machine. The whole song is pretty reminiscent of the darker brand of melodic death metal that Arch Enemy and Soilwork were doing back in the mid 90’s. The particularly victorious sound of the chorus, which has an absolutely mesmerizing central lead, sticks out here, too. A lot. It’s the highlight of the song.
“Consequence Complex” opens with a bombardment of harmonized pedal-point riffs with tremolo-picked base line melodies, creating a pretty thick opening section, considering the blast beats behind it. The verse employs a start/stop riff that feels very much like recent Decapitated, and showcases some outright death metal devoid of the melodic aspect. It’s one of the album’s more straight-up songs, and includes a really cool solo section that shifts back to full melodic majesty after the death metal carnage in its middle is over.
“Unified” is one of the best songs on the album. Clocking in at barely under seven minutes, you might expect it to be of a proggier nature, or a slower kind of evolution, but it’s in fact one of the fastest, most brutal songs on the album. This song in a lot of ways epitomizes the record itself; it channels Demon’s main attributes:
There’s the guitar work, the emotive nature, and the dark undertones of early Soilwork and Arch Enemy combined with the speed, and sense of groove of Decapitated and Vader. It also perfectly embodies that 50/50 split I mentioned earlier between melodic death metal and just straight-up death metal. In everything from its thrashy beginnings, to its fast and furious fretboard-spider-walking verse, through the interspersed blast-beat bombs and drama-filled melodic tapestries, this song is in a lot of ways Bloodshot Dawn in a nutshell. I’d call it the definitive song if someone were to ask, “Who is Bloodshot Dawn?”, at least off this record.
“Inadequacy” is classic Burning Bridges-style Arch Enemy, with Bloodshot Dawn flavor. One particularly impressive aspect of the song is its rather whack song structure: It has a beginning and an end that have absolutely nothing to do with the meat of the song. The beginning is a prime example of Gothenburg sound respect, with a triplet Middle Eastern styled riff, and the ending a built-up dramatic closing solo that is VERY Arch Enemy in nature. The rest of the song is impressive as well, a thrashed melodic chord progression and a deathly post-verse riff that borrows from the pages of thrash stalwarts like Heathen and Exodus.
If you’re looking for a savage death-dealing industrial-grade jackhammer used to pound skulls into dust and erase all traces of life, look no further than “Black Hole Infinity”. Definitely the most death metal song on the album, but with an obligatory taste of melody in the solo, of course. The chorus is melodic as well, but it does feel rather alien, or enigmatic in a progressive death metal sort of way. The main riff utilizes start/stop stylings in an aggressive way, feeling absolutely vicious rather than generating more of a laid-back vibe. This is something Bloodshot Dawn are really good at, sort of like Decapitated.
“The Human Void” is a really cool moment on the album, fast as fuck with melody, but because of the consistent vocal presence of Aborted’s Sven de Caluwe, it almost feels like an Aborted song as written by Bloodshot Dawn. It’s a very cool synergy of styles, to the point where it even sounds like Sven may have contributed to the music itself, although I certainly don’t know that. One of the most intense songs on the album for sure, and one of my select favorites.
Bloodshot Dawn again display their ability to craft lengthy songs of substance with “The Image Faded”. Clocking in at almost 8 minutes, the song really feels like guitar porn. Yes, the riffs are good and the chorus is absolutely killer (with the best lead line on the entire), but it’s the fucking almost four-minute guitar solo trade-off that makes it. It’s a flagrant display of the guitar skills of McMorran and Ellis, combined with what I’m PRETTY SURE is supposed to be that Chris Amott guest spot. I’ll wait for clarification from the band, but in the meantime this sounds like where ALL the guitar player guest spots went to.
The closer, “Demons”, is oddly straight-forward and to-the-point considering the song that precedes it, but it’s definitely in the nature of a closing song. It has a rather restrained quality in comparison to the rest of the album, with what I like to describe as the “ending credits” kind of feel to it. It’s rather melancholy, as if the album itself is experiencing a sense of sadness and longing because it’s ending, while the song’s abrupt finish definitely conveys the message that, yes, Bloodshot Dawn will be back to kick your ass again.
The mix was done by one of my favorite producer guys on the planet, Jacob Hansen, and in fine Hansen tradition the mix hits all the right points of the band he’s recording while retaining a weighty, granite-like quality, with guitars that sound like glass shards being used to slit throats. And if I haven’t made it sufficiently clear already, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE everyone in Bloodshot Dawn as musicians. McMorran, Ellis, and bassist Anthony Ridout are such good instrumental performers who truly understand metal at its essence. While I miss Doug Anderson’s particularly deep gutturals, the new drummer Janne Jaloma has turned out to be a superior fit for the band instrumentally. His style is very straight-up death metal focused and feels rather purist in a lot of ways; he does a shit ton of fat-trimming to ensure that his drumming is as concise and as “in the name of the song” as possible.
Demons is the pinnacle of what melodic death metal could still strive to be, but seems largely unwilling to be at the moment. It’s rather ironic that for a style of music that’s Scandinavian in its origins, its banner is now being carried by a group of Brits. I believe in Bloodshot Dawn, and so should you. They are at the top of their game, and at the top of the melodic death metal game as a whole. This is my album of the year unless and until something comes along in the year’s few remaining months to prove me wrong. Maybe At The Gates will do that, but I doubt anything else will.
Demons will be released on October 26. The album and related mercy can be pre-ordered here. The official video for “Smoke and Mirrors” is below.