(We present Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by Leeched from Manchester in the UK. The album will be released on January 31st by Prosthetic Records.)
There is a certain type of Metal fan – and, to be clear, it’s by no means all, or even a majority, simply a certain type – who, no matter how underground or alternative they consider themselves to be, continues to crave (consciously or unconsciously) the acceptance of the mainstream.
I’m sure you know who I’m talking about. They’re the ones who are always quick to share those “10 Ways the Metal Scene Needs to Change” articles (which always just advise becoming more like Pop and/or Rap). The ones who go crazy online for the latest big name artist engaging in a fifteen-minute flirtation with the most anaemic form of “Metal” they can get away with. The ones who believe a band’s most “accessible” album is always their best, and are willing to jump through all sorts of (il)logical hoops to explain why this shift towards a more mass-appeal sound is actually a daring display of artistic expression… and not just a cynical move designed to sell more product.
And, you know what? I get it. After all, a lot of us probably grew up as the slightly weird kids, the ones with the odd, nerdy hobbies and perpetually “uncool” music taste, simultaneously desiring and disdaining the attention and validation of our peers. And, no matter how old we are, how confident we might appear, a lot of us never fully grow out of this. We still want, on some level, to belong.
The thing is… some music is never going to belong. And a band like Leeched are simply incapable of pandering to the mainstream. They’re too ugly, too uncompromising, too listener un-friendly, to ever dream of fitting in or selling out.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Just being excessively unpleasant or unrelentingly brutal doesn’t necessarily make you good. And there are just as many gorgeously melodic and endlessly catchy albums out there which rise to the highest artistic heights as there are pointless exercises in obnoxious, directionless noise which plumb the depths of lowest-common-denominator idiocy.
But I do tend to find that when bands – either through choice of circumstance – are freed from the constraints of commercial concerns and audience expectations they tend to do their best work.
Such is the case with To Dull the Blades of Your Abuse, which picks up right where Leeched last left off, delivering a hideous amalgam of Sludge, Death, Grind, and Industrial that’s somehow even darker and nastier than their debut.
But as nasty and as violent and – let’s face it – as horrendously heavy as this record is (and it really is), it’s this last aspect in particular that really helps To Dull the Blades… stand out from the crowd.
Whereas other bands (naming no names) do little more than pay lip-service to the idea of “Industrial” by replacing their guitars with various poppy bleeps and bloops and pre-programmed beats, Leeched continue to drill down into a darker seam of grim, Godflesh-influenced sonic sewage, coating every track with a layer of squalor and grime, a filthy patina of rust and corrosion, that stains everything (and everyone) it touches.
But, of course, there’s more to this album than just an oppressive atmosphere of urban (and moral) decay. Much more indeed.
In amongst all the droning discordance and crippling claustrophobia you’ll find a morass of heaving Morbid Angel inspired riffs (“The Hound’s Jaw”, “I, Flatline”), lurching, Neurosis-esque rhythms (“Now It Ends”, “Let Me Die”), and explosions of squalling, Converge-style dissonance (“Earth and Ash”, “Praise Your Blades”), all smashed together in a merciless orgy of pulverising pistons and grinding gears.
And “merciless” is perhaps the ideal way to describe this record, when all is said and done, as there’s not a single moment – barring perhaps the ominous, anxiety-inducing intro to the climactic, and suitably crushing, “Black Sun Ceremony” – where Leeched allow the listener a chance to breathe, a chance to rest, or a single ounce of mercy.
It’s hard, in fact, to fully get across in words just how harsh, how heavy, and how unflinchingly hate-fuelled this album is without reaching through the screen and physically assaulting you while you read this.
Suffice it to say that the band’s rage continues to burn as intensely and incandescently as ever, and the last few years have clearly done nothing to lessen their fury, or dull their savage blade.
This, my friends, is what you get when you make an album without compromise. When you refuse to temper your approach to fit into someone else’s idea of what’s acceptable/accessible. It’s visceral. It’s volatile. It’s wholly unsuitable for audiences of a sensitive disposition. And it’s all the better for it.