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Declaring independence from trends - 94%

Pfuntner, January 4th, 2010

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 The sci-fi synth leads of “The Truth” have been replaced by decidedly more epic orchestral arrangements.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.