Half-Life: Bleeding Through

If you’re not convinced that we’re currently deep in the middle of the metalcore resurgence, then the simple fact that tomorrow sees the release of the first Bleeding Through record in over six-years should lay those doubts to rest. You’ll have to wait until then for Jordan to tell you just how good Love Will Kill All is, but this seems like as good an opportunity as ever to look back upon the career of a band who were foundational to the dominant heavy metal movement of the new millennium, and who certainly carved out a strong following for themselves, yet who—in retrospect—feel somewhat overlooked compared to their peers, especially considering the sheer quality and consistency of their output. You might say, that their genre’s Testament and, if new single “Fade Into The Ash” is anything to go by, it would also seem they haven’t lost any of that edge in the more than half-decade interim.


Dust to Ashes 
(2001)

Bleeding Through’s debut is a somewhat forgotten entry in the band’s annals. 2001 was a transitional time for metalcore, and there’s far more actual hardcore in play here than would be featured throughout the band’s discography and the wider coming movement. It’s also incredibly rough, and there isn’t really any real reason, other than sheer curiosity, to spin this album over any of the quintet’s other outings. Many of the album’s more developed numbers would be re-recorded for their following record, although formidable tracks like “Hemlock Society” and “Oedipus Complex” that didn’t get the re-recording treatment offer enough of a basis to go back and judge it on its own merit. Although such curiosity-driven listening is not without its own challenges. The closest thing to an official stream of the record I can find online is what appears to be the band’s old myspace page, although I am unable to verify its authenticity and it would seem that you need to create a profile in order to share or embed tracks from there these days, which is just not happening in 2018.

 

Portrait of the Goddess (2002)

Although hardly a departure from the sound and style of Dust to Ashes, Portrait of the Goddess is where you really see Bleeding Through begin to come into their own. Four out of the album’s ten tracks are re-recordings of songs from their debut. However, it’s the original material where they really shine. “Rise” opens the record in thundering fashion, and would remain a staple of the band’s live sets up until their initial break-up. The track features a guest spot from Himsa‘s John Pettibone, and the band also tap M. Shadows from a then-up-and-coming Avenged Sevenfold for the album’s other standout number: “Saviour, Saint, Salvation”. This latter number saw their soon-to-be trademark keyboards playing a more active role, and constituted a far more involved and ambitious composition than the Californians had tried their hand at up until this point. The record was still punishingly heavy, however, and essentially serves to answer the question: what if Hatebreed listened to (more) death metal?

 

This is Love, This is Murderous (2003)

Although there was still a certain “rough around the edges” quality to their sound, with this is Love, This is Murderous, Bleeding Through sound like a finished product for the first time. The record constitutes the first entry in a trio of records that would prove career-defining for the band and, while it lacked the diversity of those following releases, it perhaps remains the definitive entry in the Bleeding Through discography. There isn’t a whole lot of sonic development to be found between This is Love and Portrait of the Goddess. Instead, it simply sees everything the band had done before being done to a far, far higher standard. The Boondock Saints (1999) clip that opens “Love Lost in a Hail of Gunfire”, along with the rest of the album has to be in the running for the most effective use of a movie clip in a metal song, and tracks like “Number Seven With a Bullet” and “On Wings of Lead” remain prime examples of the formidable balance struck between metal and hardcore on this record. The album also saw the introduction of keyboardist Marta Peterson, who would go on to prove a centerpiece of the band’s sound and image, even if her contributions to their fourth outing largely took a backseat to the more traditional metalcore fare that surrounded them. If there’s a criticism to be leveled at the album, it’s that it’s somewhat front-loaded—resulting in a record that doesn’t quite hold attention as the more refined records to come. Still, It’s hard to deny that This is Love… is the definitive Bleeding Through record. Whether it’s their best is up for debate.

 

The Truth (2006)

With The Truth Bleeding Through refined their sound while also mixing a considerable amount of melody into their palette. This is not to say the album is a “softer” outing than any of their previous records. From it’s iconic opening catch cry of “I DON’T GIVE A FUCK!!” to the grandiose, self-titled instrumental that closes out its track-list, the band’s fourth full-length hardly lets up, and stakes a strong claim to being—if not the best Bleeding Through album—then certainly their most consistent and fully-realized release. The updated production, courtesy of Volbeat/ex-Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggianno, gives the record a much more “metal” aesthetic compared to their previously more hardcore-leaning outings, and the added melodic emphasis helps the tracks stand out on their own, whereas previously some of the band’s deeper cuts had been reduced to a somewhat indistinguishable blur of beatdown riffs and mosh calls.

The undeniable centerpiece of the album is lead single “Kill to Believe”. You’d be hard-pressed to find a song more representative of where metalcore was at during the mid-2000s. Yet, while cynics might criticize the song and its melodramatic lyrics as being mere pastiche, few of Bleeding Through’s ilk ever put the various parts of their genre together as well as the OC six-piece do here. The track is also book-ended by two of The Truth‘s more punishing cuts, in “Dearly Demented” and “The Painkiller”—not that it requires any kind of external justification. The main thrash riff of “Kill to Believe” is as vicious as anything else the band ever came up with and both it and The Truth as a whole just go to show that even at their, most delicate, Bleeding Through is a force to be reckoned with.

 

Declaration (2008)

I believe I can recall once hearing “Dwayne” The Rock “Johnson” described (probably by himself) as “franchise viagra”—the idea is that you can slip him into any struggling franchise, such as The Fast and The Furious or (believe it or not) Jumanji; and come away with a bona fide hit on your hands. I feel the same can somewhat be said of original I Killed the Prom Queen guitarist Jona Weinhofen. Not that Bleeding Through or Bring Me the Horizon were particularly “struggling” when he joined their ranks, but in each case, the one-off addition of Weinhofen—who here replaces founding guitarist Scott Danough—resulted in what could strongly argue to be claimed to be the bands’ best album.

Declaration took everything that works on The Truth and pushed it harder and faster toward its logical conclusion. What you’re left with is a phenomenal record packed full of instant classics like the title-track and the blistering “Orange, County, Blonde and Blue” and the more melodic-leaning “There Was A Flood”. Declaration might also constitute the first time in the band’s career where they could be completely accounted for as a metal band, with very few traces of their hardcore origins left among its thrash-heavy onslaught. Yet, while the Bleeding Through of 2008 specialized in short, volatile compositions, the album is also home to what is easily their most ambitious offering in its near nine-minute closer “Sister Charlatan”. Though the track’s final four minutes consist solely of the same piano refrain repeated above a recording of a thunderstorm, the song is all of a piece, and the bombastic, mournful intro and the ferocious main section that precede it perfectly set the stage for such melodrama. The track and Declaration itself set a high bar and its one which the band—in Weinhofen’s absence—perhaps struggled to follow.

 

Bleeding Through (2010)

Having experienced a seemingly endless upward trajectory since their beginning, Bleeding Through were bound to run out of momentum at some point. Their 2010 self-titled effort represents the first, and possibly only time in their career where a subsequent record has failed to outshine the one that came before. Bleeding Through saw the band upping the symphonic elements to almost-blackened proportions, along with a notable increase in pace. However, this increase in intensity came at a loss of definition, and much of the inherent impact of the album’s compositions gets lost among its constant onslaught and dense presentation. In many ways, its horrendous cover art is a perfect representation of the record itself—each choosing to laugh in the proverbial face of the saying “less is more”.

Just because it’s a lesser effort in Bleeding Through’s catalog doesn’t necessarily make it a bad one, and the album is certainly not without its merits. The opener “Anti-Hero” is perhaps the heaviest and most savage composition the band has ever put their name to, and the groove-heavy “Drag Me To The Ocean” provides another, late highlight. Yet, for all their individual vim and vigor, the tracks on Bleeding Through often lack their own distinct identity—often blending into one another without creating much of a disturbance along the way. “Your Abandonment”, for example, opens with some fantastic Dimmu Borgir-esque riff and synth work, but it fails to hold much attention beyond its captivating opening nor does it really build to anything over what proves to be a dragging 3:30 run-time; and by the time “Fifteen Minutes” is rounded out with its tired sloganeering of “I’ll fucking ruin your life”, it’s hard not to question whether the band’s hyper-aggressive shtick had perhaps run out of steam.

 

The Great Fire (2012)

For all their influence and semi-cult status, Bleeding Through never reached the heights of acclaim and popularity seen by many of their peers during their first go-around. Yet, what they lacked in ascension they more than made up for in consistency and—had it been their swansong—The Great Fire was one hell of a way to go out. For this supposedly final record, the band stripped back a lot of the complexity that had built up over the past couple of releases and returned to the basis of their core sound. This is by far the band’s most straightforward release since This is Love, or maybe even Portrait of the Goddess. However, it’s throwback approach is also bolstered by advances in and increased access to greater presentation; which is all just a fancy way of saying the record hits like a goddamned truck.

The album opens with “The March”, which sounds like a cross between Slayer and the end of Machine Head‘s “Davidian”, before launching into “Faith in Fire”, which comes off more like the logical continuation of Declaration than anything from the previous record. “Goodbye to Death” continues this punishing momentum, although it’s the tellingly-titled “Everything You Love Is Gone” which serves as both the album’s centerpiece and its greatest offering. At just over thirty-nine minutes, the album packs a lot into its fourteen-deep tracklist, and the more melodic leaning “Final Hours” and “The Devil and Self Doubt” are further welcome additions to the Bleeding Through canon. It was a fitting end to what had been a phenomenal, if somewhat underappreciated, run by the Orange County titans. If anything, the record proved that the band had actually picked-up, rather than lost any of their pace during their decade or so of existence—providing both a fitting close to their first chapter and leaving long-time fans longing for more. Tomorrow we’ll know whether or not the wait has been worthwhile.

Love Will Kill All comes out May 25 via SharpTone Records.

This is the water, and this is the well. Drink full, and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within.