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Humble origins of both band and genre - 75%

Pfuntner, December 31st, 2010

At this point it is hard to imagine a world where metalcore and it’s uglier less intelligent brother deathcore were mere twinkles in the eyes of their well intentioned parents, heavy metal and hardcore punk. The first few flirtations between the genres went so well. Converge brought the raw fury and intensity of hardcore to new level, Botch and The Dillinger Escape Plan were redefining how technically proficient a hardcore band was allowed to be, and Zao were using the dark imagery and atmosphere of metal to scare the shit out of the Christian hardcore scene. Who knew that one day we’d have malformed abominations like Suicide Silence or Attack Attack staring back at us?

Looking back at it all, we can place the blame firmly on two bands. All of the poppy, radio friendly, watered down melodic metalcore schlock can be derived from Killswitch Engage. All of the knuckle dragging, brutality obsessed, meathead deathcore nonsense can be traced back to Bleeding Through. I’m over simplifying things, but you can find a lot of the late 00’s metalcore scene in the early stages of these two bands. Also as I mentioned before, neither of these bands could have foreseen that music they were making would be copied, mass produced, and reverse engineered by idiots trying to make a quick buck.

Bleeding Through’s debut, the subject at hand, is by far the most raw and unpolished release the band ever did. Even on their second record the jump in production value is startling. The vocals are obscured in distortion, mostly to make up for the lack of mixing and double tracking. The drums are flat and muddy, and the keyboards are nothing but a dull humming in the background. This leaves the guitars as the primary focus, which is nice as it’s pretty easy to hear what they’re playing, despite the low tunings.

But what they’re playing is what’s really interesting here. The riffs on this record are a mix of melodic death metal a la At the Gates or early In Flames, straight forward hardcore, and lots of Cannibal Corpse. There are tremolo sections reminiscent of both the more melodic Floridian death metal bands, and the more vile sounding Norwegian black metal bands. However as obvious as some of these touchstones may seem, the use of these riffs is strikingly different than how a more traditional metal band would have approached them. While there are blast beats aplenty on this record, the band will often build a more pummeling breakdown out a riff most other bands would have played in double time. Because of this, all of the albums breakdowns share some connection to the riffs in the rest of the composition, making the songs more fluid and coherent in the process. Anytime the band uses a breakdown it feels like an appropriate shift in rhythm rather than an attempt to get kids to kick the shit out of each in the pit.

In general, the more the band leans towards the melodic sound that they would later take up, the better they are. The opening pair of tracks “Turns Cold to the Touch” and “Hemlock Society” work much better than the more spastic and chaotic “Shadow Walker” and “Reflection” for example. Of course the melodic sections that Bleeding Through work with are a far cry from the uplifting anthems most metalcore bands sling. The soft bridge in ‘Turns Cold To The Touch” is much closer to the despair of Katatonia than the arena rock of As I Lay Dying. Without a solid melodic direction to guide them, the band can occasionally get in lost. Even then the band can sometimes miss the plot, like in “I Dream Of July” where the band discards a solid if fairly standard guitar harmony intro for a stream of increasingly less interesting hardcore variations of death metal riffs, ending with a forgettable and unexciting breakdown. The band also has problems with sticking with one idea and developing it, as can be seen on “Oedipus Complex” which jumps from a thrashy triplet riff into a Nile-esque keyboard centric section that are both strong on their own but have little to do with each other. Many of these songs could benefit by bringing some riffs back more than once, just to give a greater sense of coherence.

Even with these compositional and production flaws, it’s clear that the band is really passionate about what they’re doing here and that counts for a lot more than you’d think. It might be hard to imagine passionate and raw metalcore now that everyone’s been drowned in cookie cutter variations of it, but this album is the real deal. It isn’t anywhere near the quality of the bands later releases, and most of the songs here were rerecorded later on anyway so I would recommend this mostly from a historical perspective, but it’s still an engaging listen.