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I Declare War are a sad story to me. They started off kind of generic with What You Deserve and you could tell they were still trying to find their style. When this album came out in a style so divorced of the first, it was amazing to see how far the band had come. They went from playing uninspired, if not slightly catchy deathcore, to playing a slam/deathcore hybrid style that was fucking amazing. The follow up to this, Malevolence, is in a similar style (sort of), but it doesn't touch on the musical talent and success portrayed on this album. Of course, after that they fell off the deep end trying to ape Whitechapel - and failing extremely hard. It was a very sad time when their self titled album dropped, and little old me hoped for another ATB, but got... a worse album than I could have foreseen.
But we aren't focusing on those days right now - we're looking at Amidst The Bloodshed, one of the greatest deathcore albums ever. And why is that? Because it sticks close to it's roots and it knows what it wants to be. As I said earlier, this is a very slam inspired record, and it's basically a pea in a pod with the brutal death scene really. It has such an incredibly brutal vocal style by Jon Huber that would become one of his many great styles, the more brutal death metal inspired riffing and less stop-start-stop-start riffs and breakdowns. While breakdowns are present, they are reasonably tasteful and don't leave a hole in the music. It's more on the slam side in that respect.
In terms of attitude, this album has it in droves; it's not terribly serious in tone (see song titles and lyrics) and they quite clearly make fun of some of the cliches that are overused in modern deathcore like the unbearable gangsta theme. But, like any good satire, it does this in moderation so you know it's a joke but it's still listenable. Musically it's an extremely heavy album, given the time of the album and the budget they had they managed to give it some alright production as well. I Declare War managed to incorporate melody and chugging whilst also utilizing the vocals to enunciate some seriously fucking amazing tones. Between the crazy melody you hear in the title track and songs like "Fuck Your Claim" are as musically rich as they are crushing.
Something else I particularly like is that they took some of the tracks from the first album and redoing them in the style of this one - which is a great idea, because while there were some good songs on What You Deserve, they didn't really keep my attention in their original form. In the new versions though, they're a bit more catchy and easier for me to digest - the one complaint I have is that they lack some of the more melodic moments in alot of the other songs, which makes them sort of forgettable compared to the newer songs. Lyrically, it's a joking, slam/brutal deathcore record with some serious dumb lyrics that are just kind of funny. If you came here for lyrics that would make you question reality, you'll be sorely disappointed unfortunately, but if the music is your primary concern, this album has you covered as long as you can stand some brutal fucking chugging.
It really is sad when you think about it - these guys had done almost everything perfectly here and were praised for their incredible live shows, but now they are just writing shitty wannabe Whitechapel/Thy Art Is Murder amalgamation; except I like both of those bands, so I can honestly say it's a million times worse. This was the one time they truly managed to achieve greatness, and while Malevolence is still a very listenable album, it's a total let down compared to the greatness that once was. I wish Jon still did vocals...
2007 truly was the shining golden year for deathcore. So many debut albums and crushing releases that aren't even limited to Suicide Silence's The Cleansing, Carnifex's Dead in My Arms, Whitechapel's The Somatic Defilement, Born of Osiris' The New Reign EP and See You Next Tuesday's Parasite flooded the market with even webzines and magazines reportedly taking coverage that a new metal genre and scene were erupting known as "deathcore" and rated bands that they expected were going to do well in this then-upcoming scene. As people praised Suicide Silence and Whitechapel to the masses in this same year, one band - unfortunately enough - happened to be overlooked throughout this when they were just on the edge of releasing probably one of the most stupendous 2007 albums that ears could be exposed to. And that album is Amidst the Bloodshed by the grizzly Washington-based I Declare War.
This album was overlooked I believe mainly because of its production, marketing and the fact that it was released by a very small North Carolina indie label known as Compton Records. But the music on it is just amazing especially when put up against everything in its same genre that was released in its same release year. While many bands in deathcore piece together death metal and metalcore almost like it's just two elements meant for each other with little to no experimentation or comfort zones left, I Declare War decided to take the absolute extremes and take influence from the more brutal and slammier side of death metal and combine that bit with metalcore. The result was this album.
Jonathan Huber's gurgling guttural brutal death metal-esque exhaled vocals forefront the whole package. While these are necessarily brutal death metal vocals on a deathcore album, it doesn't overpower the music if not make it better have the band had another vocalist instead of Huber. Musicianship combines death metal tuning with metalcore-styled riffing especially heard in songs such as "Now You're Going to Be Famous" and "Whoop Dat Trick". Breakdowns are also a good part of the record since they're not just done for the sake of playing breakdowns. They're placed at the catchiest moments and add such a momentum to when the record builds up. The band even get more crafty and place a slam in the song "Destroy the Weak" before breaking down the slam and (literally) creating a breakdown out of the riffs that played that slam. Amazing.
While Randy Carpenter's drumming is well-executed, his drum kit sounds a little awkward and I think gives the album the worst production value possible. There are no triggers on Carpenter's kit, instead it sounds like he's using that technique for his bass drum where you tape a quarter to your the spot where your kick mallet hits the bass drum thus achieving what is basically a ghetto trigger. Were the band really this strapped for cash during the recording and production stages of the album? At least they were able to take care of drum production all for the cost of 25 cents.
While this album was highly overlooked upon its release, I can undoubtedly claim it's a gem in the library of deathcore. Its poor production value and lack of marketing sadly caused it to go unnoticed. After this record, Jonathan Huber would later record a holiday-themed EP with the rest of I Declare War followed by one more full-length album before leaving the band and joining the successful Pathology, which was followed by his leaving and then quitting music altogether. I usually don't care this much about vocals, but vocals are definitely one of the biggest highlights of this record while the rest of it entirely is the best of both the metalcore and brutal death metal worlds.
Listen to this album if you've ever truly loved at least one deathcore release at any point of your life.
Back in 2003 there was a heavy wave of mainstream metalcore hitting the earths core. Drawing alot of attention from the hardcore universe to the metalhead universe. One would say that specific genre is poor and out played, but I Declare war is something much bigger than all of that. They offer technicality and brutality.
The biggest impression i've taken into perspective is the overall musicianship.
Breakdowns sound right on point and really add fuel to the fire while listening to some of the tracks here. In most of the songs the drumming tends to be slow and mellow but really kicks in sooner or later. The two guitarists here can play very well too. They dont do the typical "chug chug chug". You hear alot of good sweeps, then breakdowns right after.
Vocal wise, its pretty typical metalcore, but thats something that can tollerable with good musicianship and right timing. Jon Huber jumps from low gutteral type growls to Black Dahlia Murder type shreiks. Another good note about the vocals is Evan Hughes backing up Jon Huber with the duel vocals, it pretty much fits like a glove.
My problems with this was the production could have been a little more influenced rather than just rushing to make another album. I feel like they did not put much time or thought into any of this. The next problem I have are the lyrics. If you thought the infamous "Reloaded" track by Winds of Plague was bad, then have no fear because thats pretty much all this is. They imcorporate the words "fuck" and "shit" too much, it sounds really too mallcorish for me.
All in all, this isn't bad. If I Declare War had good production and better lyrics this would be a metalcore masterpeice. That being said good album.