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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.