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Well it certainly took them long enough, but Bleeding Through has finally made it to the big leagues. After being branded guilty by association by metalheads, discarded by the metalcore community for the deathcore bands that plagiarized their style, and screwed out of their royalties by one of the most aptly named record labels in the business, things looked pretty grim for the band. At this point most bands would have thrown up their hands in defeat or bowed their heads in submission to the trends of times. But Bleeding Through had made a career out of out running and out gunning their metalcore brethren and they saw no reason to stop now.
All of the adversity seems to have beaten the band into shape because “Declaration” is the most vicious and aggressive album they’ve released since “Dust to Ashes”. The lessons learned on each of the band’s previous records have all led up to this one and the flaws that held them back have been replaced with additional strengths. No longer will there be incoherent filler tracks! No longer will solos appear and disappear without making an impression! No more breakdowns for the sake of breakdowns! And no more power ballads!
It’s clear from just the intro track that the band is aiming high here. The ominous weather and soft piano that start the track soon give way to bombastic orchestration. It’s a good thing that this track exists if for nothing else but to show the degree to which the keyboard parts have improved. The sci-fi synth leads of “The Truth” have been replaced by decidedly more epic orchestral arrangements. This, along with an increased dose of blasting and tremolo riffs pushes the album into black metal territory quite often, with a great deal of success. Nearly every track here has at least one section of hyper fast Emperor-esque black metal. The symphonic elements also carry over to the more brutal sections of the album providing both embellishment and contrast to the churning guitars.
And boy do things get brutal or what? Most of the songs here are simply relentless, throwing riff after riff at the listener without any concern for civilian casualties. Take the title track, which roars out of the gate with blast beats and crunchy riffs galore before unleashing the mother of all metalcore breakdowns. This song is the model for one of the three types of songs on the record. The title track, along with “Germany”, and “Reborn From Isolation” focuses on pummeling the listener into submission by alternating between black metal riffs, metalcore breakdowns, and the hyper aggressive melodic death metal that this band has always employed. You never can really tell where any of these songs are going to take you but each twist and turn feels perfectly natural.
Then you have the more hardcore and thrash influenced songs like “Seller’s Market” and Orange County Blonde and Blue” which speed by without a care in the world. If you’re going to nit pick, these are probably going to be the least interesting songs on the album simply because they don’t break much new ground for the band, but they help move the album along and allow the more epic songs to stand out. Speaking of which, the third type of song on this album are the more melodic and bombastic tunes. The most notable of these is the epic closer “Sister Charlatan” which acts as a summation of everything Bleeding Through has worked for up to this point. This one has it all, from the waltzing melodic black metal to the soaring chorus. The band will probably get sick of this song soon, because it’s bound to end up on all of their set lists for a long time.
“Sister Charlatan” also shows the increased quality of the vocals, which have always held Bleeding Through back to a certain degree. Unsurprisingly given the context, the harsh vocals venture into the upper register a great deal and sound amazing. Brandon’s lower growls are strong as ever, especially on “Reborn From Isolation”, but it’s the higher screams where he really shines. However the award for most improved goes to the clean vocals. Brandon sticks mainly to his lower register letting the far more adapt Ryan Wombacher handle the higher range. This allows each vocalist to sing in their comfort zones which gives them the freedom to come up with far more interesting vocal melodies.
I wouldn’t be surprised if that last item was a result of Devin Townsend’s presence behind the mixing board considering that man’s immense talents as both a singer and a producer. Given that, it should come to no surprise that the production here is amazing. The drums are crisp and clear but don’t over power the guitars, the guitars have the perfect blend of bite, depth, and crunch, and while the keyboards are strong in the mix they never make it harder to hear the rest of the band. Everything sounds huge and booming and there are hardly any moments where there isn’t an extra effect to keep your ears busy.
Playing metalcore in 2009 makes about as much sense as playing thrash metal in 1994 if you’re planning following trends. Bleeding Through is doing something commendable here, not only for sticking to their guns but also for improving those guns. They have turned modern metalcore into a legitimate art form, and this is a declaration to their prowess.
After a bitter battle with their label, Trustkill Records, over the re-release of their last album, “The Truth”, lack of funding, and unpaid royalties, Bleeding Through are back and angrier than ever with their fifth full-length release, “Declaration”. I know that it is cliché of a metal band to say that next album is going to be faster, heavier, darker, and more brutal than any previous material that they’ve made, but this is the best way to describe “Declaration” in comparison to Bleeding Through’s previous offerings.
This album sees Bleeding Through following the trend set by “The Truth” by making uncompromising music while continuing to distance themselves from the oversaturated metalcore scene that they have been associated with. While their last album took influence from various kinds of metal, “Declaration” sees Bleeding Through heading in a more extreme metal direction. The songs on this album have some pretty strong black metal undertones, due to a variety of reasons. The most apparent undertone comes from Marta’s atmospheric keyboards. She is utilized a lot more than in previous offerings, offering some Dimmu-like atmospherics to the tracks, or more appropriately, Abigail Williams. Another sign of this shift into more extreme waters can be heard in the drums. Drummer Derek Youngsma has adopted a more death metal style of drumming this time around, blasting more in the album’s first song, “Declaration”, than in the entire “The Truth” album. His fills are more complex and his double bass work is faster and more frequently used than before. The guitars are more aggressive and darker on this album. There are a lot more tremolo picked riffs this time around, which produce some black metal sounding moments when doubled by Marta’s ominous keyboards. Vocalist Brandan Schieppati favors his midrange and high vocals over his lower tones this time. There are also less clean vocals on this album. If you are a fan of the band and became worried about the band’s new sound after reading this paragraph, don’t fret. This is Bleeding Through that we’re talking about; there’s still more breakdowns and Gothenburg-inspired riffs than you can shake a Hot Topic kid at.
This new sound becomes apparent as soon the title track opens. You are introduced to band through a barrage of blast beats, gloomy atmospheric keyboards, dark guitars, and Brandan’s war cry. The darker tone only increases as the band tears through the first few minutes of “Declaration”, as the guitars and keyboards work together to create a sinister sound more associated with black metal than a band that has been labeled metalcore for years. After that, guess what comes next? A breakdown; the first of many over the album’s duration. However, dark guitar chords are soon layered over the compulsory breakdown this time around, and along with driving double bass, create the more aggressive and darker feel of the album and makes the part seem less forced and out of place.
The next track, “Orange County Blonde and Blue”, is a short, mean thrasher that revisits the band’s old sound with some new touches. The Slayer-influenced guitars, hardcore screams, raging drums, and yes, breakdowns, are all there. The new sounds first shows up in the blast beat section, where the tremolo-picked guitar line and keyboards come together to produce the more extreme sound. This song also highlights Derek’s drumming skills particularly well; especially his much improved double bass parts.
The middle part of the album continues in the same fashion. The new sound is explored through a variety of tempos and atmospheres. Every song maintains the same level of brutality and intensity set up by the first few tracks. The clean vocals are more limited this time around and are used to add to the atmosphere.
Where Bleeding Through really shines in this record is in “There Was a Flood” and “Sister Charlatan”, the two longest and most atmospheric tracks on the album. Both open with clean guitars, which then evolve into slow power chord parts topped with Marta’s keyboards. Her intricate keyboard passages in both songs augment the black metal undertones in the songs. Both songs do feature clean vocals, but they do not sound out of place. After the intro, both break into the high-octane attack that we expect from Bleeding Through.
Of these two songs, the black metal-esque closer “Sister Charlatan” stands out as the better song and my personal favorite of the album. The way that the song builds up is epic and was a very pleasant surprise when I first heard it. Once the intro is done, Bleeding Through get down to their pissed off business once again. The guitars shift back and forth between tremolo picked lines to dark Gothenburg riffs. The drums are blasting for a good portion of the song, alternating between traditional blast beats and Suffocation drummer Mike Smith’s instantly recognizable blasts. The keyboards maintain the brooding, ominous atmosphere and offer intricate melody lines during the brief breakdown in the middle of the song. Additionally, there is also a well-placed guitar solo. While the song clocks in at almost nine minutes, the actual music ends shortly after the five-minute mark. In its place are rain and thunderstorm sounds accompanied by a soft and somber piano part, leaving the listener to reflect on what they had just experienced.
Bleeding Through have always been expanding and evolving their sound with each release, and their chosen path to create a more extreme and aggressive sound has worked very well as “Declaration” is a great, solid album. I find the songs overall on this album serve to be more memorable than the previous albums. I do like Bleeding Through and have all of their albums, but I find myself remembering a lot more from this album than the others. Part of this has to do with better songwriting, and another part is that the new sound of the band. The album still sounds like Bleeding Through, but their extreme metal influences are more prominent than before. Like any good album, I notice little things here and there with each successive listen that make the music more interesting. The production handled by Canadian madman Devin Townsend is also noteworthy. The album has a clear and powerful sound, and every instrument can be well heard without overpowering the other instruments. This album as a whole presents the strongest and most cohesive material Bleeding Through has to offer. Purchase is a no brainer for fans. If you are interested in Bleeding Through but have never heard them before you should head over to their myspace page because they are currently (as of the writing of this review) streaming “Declaration” in its entirety.