Since expanding into a multidimensional movement since its inception in the early 90’s, it has become increasingly difficult to think of post-metal as specific style. Everything from the blackened rage of Deafheaven to the orchestral instrumentals of Ocoai can be put under the post-metal umbrella, but the genre actually traces its roots back to the sludgy dirges of the visionary Neurosis. This primal foundation is something Chicago’s Bloodiest have been about since their debut LP. 2011’s Descent had a fairly predictable approach to the post-metal template. This isn’t to say it was underwhelming, but there wasn’t anything to be found in the album that you couldn’t hear from plenty of other bands. By contrast, Bloodiest’s self-titled LP sports a level of ingenuity that is a terrifying as it is engrossing.
Before I had finished the second track on Bloodiest, I understood its main influences; Neurosis and Swans (for the latter I’m mostly referring to their two most recent albums). Shameless name dropping notwithstanding, the combination of these two giants of forward-thinking music can be heard throughout the album’s runtime. Don’t believe me? Listen to “The Widow.” It literally sounds like Enemy of The Sun meets To Be Kind. Still don’t believe me? “He Is Disease” sports the staggeringly heavy sludge riffage of Neurosis and the unrelenting sonic torment of Swans. This amalgamation makes Bloodiest enduringly compelling by taking from the affinity for pushing boundaries found in both bands.
Bloodiest also delivers in terms of production. This album has a better mix than Descent, which had a good sound in of itself. Each track offers an expansive range of dynamics and emotionalism, which includes anything from delicate acoustic/keyboard interludes and unsettling ambience to abusively heavy riffage and grating sonic lunacy. Each of these elements can be heard in all of its glory. The guitars and bass sound unbelievably thick while maintaining clarity, just as the drums sound earthy without sacrificing tight execution. In addition, a tasteful use of keyboards and synth that add atmosphere and modulative depth. “Separation” is a wonderful example of all of these styles and approaches synthesizing into a ginormous emotional depth charge. While I was admittedly surprised by the brazen songwriting chops on this record, the vocals truly took me aback on many occasions.
“Mesmerize” lived up to its name by lulling me into a false sense of security in the vocal department. Indeed, the impassioned caterwauls that make up a good portion of the delivery on this album have a less harsh sense of anger, especially when compared to the tortured shrieks that greet listeners in “The Widow.” These are quite frankly some of the most disconcerting sounds I’ve heard come out of human vocal chords. When coupled with the least friendly parts of Bloodiest’s sound, connoisseurs of musical pain can expect to be gratified, and any mental sound person will find themselves profoundly upset. In other words, It rules.
Bloodiest have certainly regained my attention as a great addition to the vanguard of post-metal with this solid follow up. If you like Swans or Neurosis, or want to explore some of the more challenging recesses of post-metal, checking this band out should be a no-brainer.
Steam the Album here.
Review By Maxwell Heilman