Every once in a while there’s a band that comes out of nowhere and completely blows one away. Bloodshot Dawn did that with their self-titled 2012 debut, coming to a scene where melodic death metal was more or less dead, and they put a very strong statement of “No it’s not dead, everyone else is just doing it wrong” out there, with emphasis on the “death metal” part of “melodic death metal”. The self-titled album was excellent, but where can the band go from there? Turns out that they still have a lot of room to develop. Their follow-up album, titled Demons, was crowdfunded and released completely independently yet again, and it goes to show that the genre still has a lot more to offer.
Where to begin with this album? The riffing. The riffing is just so right. Bloodshot Dawn are masters at taking cliche/cheesy melodeath riffs, putting a fresh spin on them or completely revamping them, then adding a bunch of time signature shenanigans on top of it all to have a very satisfying blend of soaring melodies and crushing headbanging rhythms. Lead guitarist Benjamin Ellis deserves a lot of credit here, as his solos and leads take everything to the next level. Instead of just doing the tired old obvious melodies that everyone has heard over and over many times, he adds a jazzy twist to them which elevates the songs beyond simple meat-and-potatoes death metal. The rest of the band deserves a lot of credit as well, though. The rhythms are, as noted before, constantly going in new directions and surprising the listener. The drumming is a perfect complement to that, at times accenting the rest of the music with poignant fills and at other times counter-balancing it with off-time trickery. Again, it can’t be stated enough how good Bloodshot Dawn are at taking simple riffs and adding layers and layers of creative flair to them to make them so much more, and they never overstay their welcome with any riff. Every song is full of insanely catchy lines, and the fast chugging, blast beats, polyrhythms all add up together to make Demons easily one of the best written albums of the genre.
The vocals are no slouch either. Vocalist/guitarist Josh McMorran is a no-holds-barred monster. His screaming is so powerful and full of expression. Not only does he play all these complex guitar riffs, he also accentuates them with his vocal delivery that is constantly fresh and interesting. In addition to that, Aborted‘s Sven de Caluwe guests on a song, and the fact that he sounds so natural in Bloodshot Dawn goes to show how heavy the band can be with their riffing and have it go along with their melodic tendencies. Sven isn’t the only esteemed guest on Demons though, as Scar Symmetry‘s Per Nilsson, ex-Arch Enemy‘s Chris Amott, Wintersun‘s Teemu Mantysaari and Andy James all contribute guest solos. The fact that none of these big names make Benjamin Ellis look redundant is a testament to his amazing soloing skills and to the overall strength of the band.
At this point it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the production is excellent. Mixed by Jacob Hansen, who is responsible for the last few Aborted albums among many others, the sound is just perfect. Every riff is perfectly clear and the guitars always sound full and crisp. The drumming cuts through the mix in just the right way and every hit makes its impact felt. The vocals sit right in the middle of it all, again perfectly audible and hard-hitting. The many layers of rhythm and lead guitars all come together with the rest to create what is essentially a mix that has no flaws.
In the end, Demons is pretty much a perfect album. Bloodshot Dawn once again show that they are absolute masters of the genre. With soaring melodies, heavy, complicated-yet-accessible riffs and overall incredible songwriting, Demons is a masterpiece of melodic death metal. When others in the genre are either a former shell of themselves, stagnating or making unnecessary throwback albums*, Bloodshot Dawn are kicking ass and taking the genre forward while simultaneously embarrassing even legendary names of the genre with their creativity and expertise.
Bloodshot Dawn’s Demons gets…
*Yes, that is a dig at At the Gates, Demons makes their new effort look tired and unnecessary.