THE BLED OFFER UP A TASTE OF POST-HARDCORE AGGRESSION THAT WOULD MAKE FANS OF EARLY THRICE PROUD
For better or for worse, oftentimes bands abruptly change directions after releasing one or several albums, prompting fans that have been with the band from the very beginning to ask “What the fuck?” Thrice is such a band. After their 2002 breakthrough The Illusion of Safety Thrice released The Artist in the Ambulance in 2003, a more polished and cohesive piece that was the next logical step in the band’s development. But what followed was a complete about-face that left many of the band’s original fans feeling betrayed — 2005’s Vheissu was a sprawling, experimental album that explored many different styles and textures, of which the band’s original post-hardcore / proto-emo sound was only a small part (The Alchemy Index, of which Vol I & II were released this October, follow in that direction). Enter Tucson, Arizona’s The Bled, who appear to have taken the melodic post-hardcore torch from Thrice, creating an album in Silent Treatment that could well stand in as a heavier modern day Thrice release — had that band not gone off the creative deep end.
Helmed by producer Brian McTernan (who has produced Converge as well as Thrice’s earlier work, among others), Silent Treatment is a developed and cohesive album, obviously the product of band members who care deeply for spending time on their recorded output. The band combines post-hardcore aggression with modern metal production sheen, which by no means is an original statement; but The Bled wouldn’t and shouldn’t be classified in the same group as metalcore giants like Killswitch Engage and As I Lay Dying. The Bled falls firmly on the “hardcore” side of the line, drawing way more influence from bands like Refused and yes, Thrice, than Dio or Iron Maiden. Though the band often does reference Thrice, the bulk of material on Silent Treatment is way heavier than Thrice ever dared to go.
Frenetic, Dillinger-esque riffage and breakdowns such as in “The Silver Lining” and “Beheaded My Way” are commonplace but never too hard to follow, nor does it ever seem that the band is repeating themselves. The band members let plenty of their prog influence show, which should keep time-signature-counting fans using their fingers and toes, and having to rewind again and again. But the musical intricacy doesn’t get in the way of a straight ahead hook or down to earth, fist-pumpking breakdown.
Lead singer James Munoz offers a hardcore screaming style reminiscent of Converge and Refused, and though he can switch to beautifully sung Dustin Kensure-esque melodies on a dime, the majority of the album features his aggressive yet well-enunciated scream. Heavy chugging often gives way to melodic but surprisingly un-cheesey choruses, turning things right back around in the listener’s face as in the album opener “Shadetree Mechanics.” Ethereal passages full of delayed guitars, airy, softly sung vocals and pitter-pattering toms open up to crushing riffs and breakdowns that somehow never sacrifice melody for brutality. The Bled’s pop-punk influence occasionally shows through in galloping 4/4 beats but never seems trite, and they often lead to slow downs and chug-a-chug riffing that will get any metalhead’s metal head moving back and forth. Tracks like “Breathing Room Barricades” incorporate all of the above.
Where The Bled lose points are in their frequent references to other bands. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing — but it’s difficult, at this stage in their career, to pick out and define a sound to which I can definitively say “this sound is ‘The Bled sound’.” “Some Just Vanish” could easily be a Thrice song with Converge breakdowns thrown in. Nevertheless, The Bled is certainly a band to follow and one whose future output I look forward to greatly.
This reviewer hasn’t heard any of The Bled’s earlier output, but Silent Treatment regardless comes off as a more developed version of a band that may have had rawer, less refined beginnings. The heavy tone suggests high cross-over potential from the Warped Tour audience to the Ozzfest audience and beyond; in fact, The Bled might feel at home on a tour featuring the likes of modern prog-masters Between the Buried and Me. Had Thrice continued getting heavier and sonically bigger, Silent Treatment is most certainly the album they would’ve made. Instead we’re left with an experimental prog band that does a great job dabbling in different genres and styles (Thrice), and one that’s bearing that band’s old flag, bigger, heavier, and badder than ever before.
(three and a half out of five horns)
[Visit The Bled on MySpace]