Bleed From Within – Fracture
Bleed From Within really hit their stride with their previous record, Era (2018) – returning after an almost-five year absence with an album that stripped away a lot of their deathcore roots in favour of a more melodic, thrash-based approach. Fracture continues Era‘s evolution by upping the intensity of everything, in almost every conceivable way. The riffs are heavier, the playing is more intricate, the drums hit harder, the vocals are more varied and the songs themselves are far more complex. A lot of the album recalls While She Sleeps‘ Brainwashed (2015) – both in terms of its density and volatility – while many of the staccato rhythms that populate the record can’t help but bring Fear Factory to mind. Later tracks like “Ascend” recal Watches of Rule-era Unearth, standout track “Utopia” borrows heavily from Chimaira and “A Depth that No One Dares” even throws in a blistering torrent of white-hot black metal for good measure. All of the performances are top-notch, although From Sorrow to Serentity guitarist Steven Jones, who joined Bleed From Within in the lead-up to Era, would seem to be the magical ingredient, pushing the rest of the band’s already admirable talents to new heights.
As with Brainwashed, however, Fracture also suffers from its complexity. A lot of the the thrash aesthetic of the previous record has been dialed back, in favour of a more concussive metalcore approach, which allows its songs less definition than might be desired. Although Fracture‘s songs are much more involved than anything the band have put their name to, they’re far less memorable than those on Era, with the overbearing nature of everything leaving a lot of the album sounding somewhat one-dimensional. Likewise, the production, which sees Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood (drum engineering, mixing) joined by Ermin Hamidovic (mastering), should be a dream come true, and the album does indeed hit harder than any other you care to name. Yet, by having everything go as hard as possible at all times, the albums loses a lot of the dynamics and impact inherent in its composition. The chorus of “End of All We Know”, for example, doesn’t so much soar above the chaos below as add to its concussive concoction, and it can be equally difficult to find something to grab onto across the albums other offerings. Fracture can be an overwhelming experience to say the least, and while it probably just needs a bit of time for it all to sink in (look for me raving about this record come the end of the year), a bit more contrast would go a long way toward speeding up the process.
Currents – The Way It Ends
Currents‘ new record just goes to show how valuable variation and dynamics can be. The first four tracks on The Way it Ends immediately set themselves apart from each other: “It Was Never There” is an Architects-style, emotional intro track, “A Flag to Wave” is your standard – albeit masterfully executed – melodic metalcore number, “Poverty of Self” is a brutal, heavy offering that sounds like Monuments meets Vildhjarta, while “Monsters” is an anthemic, almost radio-rock effort that foregrounds the band’s melodic sensibilities while still retaining much of the kinetic drive established by the album’s earlier, heavier fare. Each track instantly establishes its own identity, distinct but continuous with its surroundings, with the rest of the album combining the elements it sets up in various and equally successful measure.
The way Currents construct and contrast their songs is what makes The Way it Ends truly stand out. It’s a tad reductive – although not entirely inaccurate – to simply say the album sounds like a heavier Northlane or Polaris, and a lot of the elements that make up the record are generic in isolation. There’s an added undertone of rhythmic heaviness, however, that sets Currents apart from the competition. The band’s defining groove feels like its drawing more from earlier, heavier tech metal acts like the aforementioned Monuments and mid-period Born From Osiris rather than just Architects and/or the usual djent-offender, and the way they’re implemented instantly elevates the album above expectations. Likewise, the clean vocals, while certainly not the strongest example of their ilk, are deployed sparingly and expertly in order to maximize their impact. Currents might not be doing anything you haven’t heard before on The Way it Ends, but they also do it a hell of a lot better than you might expect.
Ebonivory – The Long Dream I
At almost the complete other end of the dent-influenced spectrum are Australia’s Ebonivory, who have delivered one of the most impressive and relaxing metal albums of 2020 so far. Although their sophomore effort starts off with a concussive cacophony that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Devin Townsend Project record, The Long Dream I mostly inhabits the lighter-end of the oz-prog spectrum, drawing together the lighter elements of acts like Periphery, Tesseract and even Protest the Hero to create something that stands apart in its emotional extravagance rather than technical prowess. Although the singles from the record emphasize its heavier moments for the most part, it’s in the softer sections that The Long Dream truly shines. For all the complexity of tracks like “Introvection” and “Explosions after Dark”, its the very later-day Anathema-sounding, mellow epic “The Bluegums” that stands tall, like its namesake, among the album’s flashier material.
Again, contrast and progression are key. The Dream Within I‘s material is perhaps less impressive in isolation, as a whole, however, it’s a phenomenally affecting work, which justifies every second of its expansive fifty-nine minute run-time. Ebonivory’s music is perfectly spaced out – both across the record and within individual compositions – allowing the listener to latch onto and resonate with each and every moment. Lead singer Charlie Powlett might have the thickest Australian accent this side of Dune Rats, which leads to some amusing, and somewhat jarring moments at times, but that only adds to the album’s charm. The Long Dream I is a huge improvement over the band’s already impressive previous material and establishes them as a true force within Australia’s already prominent progressive metal scene.