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By now, the one-man death metal band is not entirely new to most of us. Both Insidious Decrepancy and Putrid Pile have been recording and performing live as one-man acts for many years. North Carolina's Bloodsoaked (A.K.A. Peter Hasselbrack) has been crushing skulls in a similar manner since 2006, and shows no sign of letting up with the latest album, The Death of Hope.
While still remaining heavy as hell, Bloodsoaked has grown and evolved slightly on The Death of Hope. Outside contributions have surely helped with this transformation. While writing material in the past, Hasselbrack would sometimes jam with other musicians to help flesh out ideas. This time around, the album was almost entirely written while jamming with Atrocious Abnormality drummer, Brent Williams. This may have helped contribute to one of The Death of Hope's greatest strong points: more variety in the songwriting. Each song is more distinct on The Death of Hope than on past releases. The guitar solos definitely lift the songs to a new level as well. A ripping lead first shows up near the end of the fourth track. It was such a shock when the solo entered that it really caught me off-guard. "Sounds like Hasselbrack has been doing some serious wood-shedding," I thought to myself upon first hearing the solo tearing through my speakers. After closer examination of the CD booklet I realized that it's not Hasselbrack playing the lead, but none other than James Murphy more or less reprising the role he played on Obituary's Cause of Death as the "go-to-solo-guy." His solos on "No God" and "Consume the Flesh" are simply awesome and add a new dimension to the Bloodsoaked sound. With the outside contributors making such a difference, one can't help but wonder how strong Hasselbrack's creations would be with more input from others.
Don't let all of the talk of other contributors fool you. This is definitely Hasselbrack's show, and it's obvious that he has done plenty to improve and grow himself. While I have enjoyed past Bloodsoaked releases, The Death of Hope is the first one that I've had a hard time taking out of the CD player. The songs are catchy and well-written and stick to the Bloodsoaked style, but the riffs are stronger now and the tunes are downright infectious. It's easy to see that Hasselbrack has been honing his craft over the years. Probably the most glaring difference between The Death of Hope and its predecessors is Hasselbrack's vocal style. The deep gutturals have been replaced with a more mid-rangy early David Vincent growl. This took some getting used to at first, but after several listens it really grew on me. However, it might have been even better if he had used both vocal styles to add even more variety to the album. For a quick comparison, check out the re-recording of "Grinding Your Guts" (originally from 2007's Brutally Butchered) that closes the album. The song is essentially the same as the original, but now features the new vocal style.
The Bloodsoaked groove-driven catchiness of old combined with the new stronger songwriting and new vocal style make The Death of Hope a winner for brutal death metal genre fans. This is easily the best Bloodsoaked album yet. It would definitely be interesting to see how having a full band would affect recordings and live performances. Having seen Bloodsoaked three times to date, I can say he pulls it off damn well live for one guy with a guitar and an iPod on a stool. There's something slightly vulnerable and awkward about seeing one man playing brutal music like this all alone on stage. At the same time, one can't help but be impressed with the fact that he actually succeeds. The Death of Hope is proof positive that Hasselbrack doesn't need to fix what ain't broke. A few tweaks here and there will do just fine.
Originally written for http://www.metalpsalter.com