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The impossible happened: Internal Bleeding managed to release an album I kind of, sort of like a little bit. Directly saying 'I like it' is probably too strong of a statement, and it might shatter my illusion of enjoying some parts of this release, so I won't go so far as to say that. But the more I listen to it, the more I start to enjoy it; there are even some parts I can nod my head along to, which is a first in the band's career.
'Driven To Conquer' is a sort of natural extension of what was going on in 'The Extinction Of Benevolence'; the methodology's just been cleaned up significantly. Instead of the weird attempt at early deathcore that the earlier album represented, the material here is more of a straight death metal/hardcore combination, with elements of both being clearly present instead of just a hideous amalgamation of the two. The vocals are essentially just a hardcore shout with a trace of growl to them, and the instruments bounce back and forth between midpaced hardcore and blasting death metal. The Suffocation influences at this point seem to have disappeared entirely, with the band settling into its (mostly mediocre) own style. The best advancement, though, is in the riffing: there's some genuinely threatening and memorable riffs on display throughout the album as opposed to the mostly mindless ones of the last two.
The standout track is the title cut, which is (from what I've heard) easily Internal Bleeding's best song to date. The lurching, slammy chorus riff makes up for the sort of weak vocal performance, and the rest of the track's stop/start tremolo doesn't slouch either. The next couple tracks are good ones as well. The album levels off a bit in the second half, regressing a bit into 'The Extinction Of Benevolence' territory, but it's still markedly better than that album. The whole album feels sleeker and more streamlined than the clunky previous ones, with a better grasp of song structuring and instrumentation all around. The separation of the hardcore and death metal works well to the advantage of the band; they can't combine them into something coherent, but they can give each its own space and transfer between them quite cleanly.
Of course it's not a great album. It's overly straightforward and relatively uncreative. But unlike earlier Internal Bleeding, 'Driven To Conquer' can at least get me to move a little. And in the light of their other works, this is a notable feature. Probably the Internal Bleeding album to go for before the others.