Bleeding Through – The Great Fire
By Matt Albers
The Orange County, California sextet Bleeding Through has had an interesting, now nearly fifteen-year career. As one of the breakout bands of the metalcore movement at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the band experienced much success and achievement with their albums This Is Love, This Is Murderous and The Truth. After their initial success, Bleeding Through persevered through a falling out with their label Trustkill Records by pushing their songwriting skills to an eclectic balance of subgenre bending, combining more elements of melodic death metal, symphonic black metal, thrash, and even gothic and industrial metal. This was seen best on their 2008 album Declaration. With the recent fall in popularity of metalcore, bands from the movement have found themselves either more mainstream and rock radio-friendly (Killswitch Engage, All That Remains, Atreyu), or staying within the underground confines. The latter allows either for more experimentation with heavier or darker sounds, or results in mundane repetition. A combination of those two results is where Bleeding Through’s most recent release, The Great Fire, finds itself.
The Great Fire is Bleeding Through’s seventh studio album, and second on their current label, Rise Records. It is also the second album to feature former No Use For A Name guitarist Dave Nassie as a permanent member of the band. After the album opens with an obligatory instrumental introduction called “The March,” the first few songs, while heavy and extremely aggressive, sound too familiar and almost as if much of the music was cut and pasted from their last album, which was self-titled and released in April 2010. That album was overall a highly positive effort from Bleeding Through with strong, well-written songs that, while familiar, were catchy and groovy enough to not be boring.
Aspects of the first songs on The Great Fire that make them negative begin with the fact that they are very short; the length of each song on the album ranges from 1:44 to 4:05. Although this gives a very hardcore punk feel to the album, this leaves much to be desired. Songs either sound rushed, baking it hard to appreciate the elements and musicianship, or they stop too soon, which makes it frustrating when you want you want to hear more of a good, well-written song. Much of Marta Peterson’s keyboard playing on The Great Fire’s earliest songs seems rather forced and poorly mixed in with the rest of the song. This is most evident in the songs “Starving Vultures” and the slightly unnecessary gothic pipe organ-sounds in “Goodbye To Death,” which are reminiscent of the soundtrack to the video game Castlevania. Peterson’s inclusion and contributions to the band were always welcomed and held in high regard by fans, so hearing the keyboards in Bleeding Through is very disappointing. Fortunately, her talents do not stay at this poor level and rises to better results along with the rest of the band as the album continues.
The album begins to pick up toward the middle, beginning with technically precise, hardcore-structured “Everything You Love Is Gone,” which features a thick breakdown sure to induce head-bobbing, if not a violent mosh pit. The next few songs sound much better both from writing and production. “Walking Dead,” “The Devil and Self-Doubt,” and “Step Back In Line” All stand out as some of the best songs on the album each with their own structure and vibe. The songs themselves, as well as the shared sounds that make up each song, show the diverse influences that fans have come to know, expect and love from Bleeding Through at this point in their career. All the instruments are perfectly mixed in these songs, as well as the last in this bunch called “Trail Of Seclusion,” which builds from a melancholy keyboard intro to an epic, groovy and catchy cacophony.
The last few songs on the album are kind of weird. “Deaf Ears” is the first song after the group of strong songs in the middle of the album, but while it is one of the most brutal songs on the album, it doesn’t stand out as strongly as the previous songs and ends appearing as boring noise. “One By One” is another well-mixed, more hardcore-structured song that is unfortunately too short. “Entrenched” is also a positive song, but it starts with a softer, bluesy guitar jam (most likely by Dave Nassie) paired with clean harmonic singing of simple “Ooh’s,” giving it a vibe similar to a band like Faith No More. This beginning successfully leads into the rest of this undeniably heavy song, but is so different for Bleeding Through and takes you by so much surprise on the first listen that it seems to simply be to show off Nassie’s extensive and diverse background on guitar. The Great Fire closes with another strongly diverse but unfortunately too short song called “Back To Life,” which features soaring harmonic clean vocals in the chorus, which seem to include at least two different voices. This is most likely bassist Ryan Wombacher contributing his backing vocal talents to accompany front man Brandan Schieppati.
Speaking of Schiepatti, his vocals are still as strong and diverse as they’ve been for at least their past two albums, but it does not sound like he has been trying anything new on this album. He sticks mostly to harsher vocals within his surprisingly broad range of screams and growls, but in typical Bleeding Through fashion, some songs also feature his abilities in clean singing in attempt to make the songs more diverse, interesting or complex and the choruses catchier. Bleeding Through. This tactic does not succeed 100% of the time, but for the most part it does (which is also nothing new for the band). Schiepatti’s lyrics on The Great Fire, range anywhere from typical, pissed-off, “stick-it-to-the-man” aggression or borderline-emo sorrow and despair, to surprisingly deep inner conflict or personal retrospective. Lyrics on “Back To Life” suggest the ups and downs the band has experienced in their career, and “Deaf Ears” opens with the simple yet powerful line of “God save me, I’m standing on the wrong side; but if this mine’s I’ll burn in hell, I’d rather fight and die.”
The Great Fire is unfortunately not Bleeding Through’s best album to date, but it is not a bad album by any means. It definitely has its strong points as well as its weak ones. It’s hard to say what the band was thinking or going through when they wrote and recorded this album, as many of the members have other project. Brandan Schiepatti has worked in a number of other original bands (Suffer Well, I Am War, Sorrows) and his own gym called Rise Above Fitness, Dave Nassie is an accomplished guitar showcases his talent in clinics, and Marta Paterson has been engaged to Machine Head guitarist Phil Demmel with their marriage eminent. Any number of things may have contributed to this album sounding less-than epic, with songs that are unfortunately either short or sound thrown-together.
The physical copy of the album also includes a DVD of a live performance from Bleeding Through at the California venue Chain Reaction called The Past Is A Strange Place. This filmed performance was a part of a series of shows in where the band played songs from their first three albums, including 2001’s From Dust To Ashes and 2002’s Portrait Of A Goddess, as “one last hoorah” for the songs to heard in their home state before being officially retired. This knowledge hints at a possible bad omen for fans that Bleeding Through may not stay together for much longer. While The Great Fire is just not as good Bleeding Through’s past, maybe four albums, fans should definitely consider including it in their library, especially with the added incentive of the live DVD of old and now rare songs. Those unfamiliar with Bleeding Through, however, would be wise to start further back in the band’s catalogue if they’re looking to begin becoming familiar with them.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5
Recommended If You Like: Winds Of Plague, Parkway Drive, Caliban, Walls Of Jericho, All Shall Perish