ALBUM REVIEW: Blessthefall – Hard Feelings
The metalcore scene often gets a lot of criticism, with many believing in the stereotype that all of the bands are cut from the same cloth and that the music they create is very one dimensional. Whether you buy into that theory or not, it can not be denied that metalcore ruled the world in the early 2000s. Albums such as End Of Heartache by Killswitch Engage, Shadows Are Security by As I Lay Dying and All That Remains’ The Fall Of Ideals were helping to elevate the scene to very forefront of the metal world (just to name a few). Through the seemingly endless swarms of young metalcore acts that were peddling their wares at the time emerged Blessthefall, who made a name for themselves playing shows around their homeland of Scottsdale/Phoenix, Arizona before being signed to Warner Music Group subsidiary; Science Records. The band released their debut album His Last Walk in 2007 with their original frontman Craig Mabbitt, shortly before his departure later on than year (he would then go on to join the band Escape The Fate). The band then replaced Mabbitt with their current frontman, Beau Bokan, and really began to pick up speed with all of their subsequent releases gaining considerable notoriety within the scene.
In 2018, Blessthefall now have an impressive five full-length albums under the belts, and intend to build upon the success gained on the previous outing To Those Left Behind with their sixth album, Hard Feelings.
Hard Feelings opens up with the track Wishful Sinking (which had been released as a promotional single prior to the album’s release). The song begins with a quiet introduction before kicking into a bouncy, low-tuned riff accompanied perfectly with some impressive metallic drumming that resembles the sound of heavy artillery. We are off to a good start here. The track then completely changes direction for the verse: the aggressive guitar tones and heavy-hitting drum work is replaced with atmospheric synth and an echoed drum sound with the high register, soft vocals from Beau Bokan floating over the top. The band has clearly taken the opportunity here to utilise their biggest weapon early on in the album, and that is their ability to write a MASSIVE chorus. You can already envision hordes of Blessthefall fans singing this back to them and it certainly serves its purpose in enticing the listener to continue on with the album – which is exactly what you want from an opener.
The next track of note, also served as a promotional single for the album, is called Melodramatic. This song is more of your standard radio-friendly single that you would expect from a melodic metal band to release, in order to gain airtime across the music channels and radio stations. A quick, muted guitar riff plays over the top of a drum roll with Bokan singing over the top. The song then hits its stride and marches on with the kind of melody that wouldn’t be out of place on a pop punk song. The drums throughout the verse are a massive focal point, with the complex beat serving as a reminded that this a metal song at the very core (even if it very well disguised). The anthemic chorus is delivered to devastating effect, there is absolutely no denying that these boys know how to write a pop-friendly melody that could rival most acts that you see in the mainstream charts nowadays. Jared Warth is mostly relegated to singing backing vocals on this track, until the breakdown arrives and he fully utilises his opportunity to shine. The man has a rasping, widely ranged voice that is easily recognisable and the sheer power of it is enough to add a whole other level of brutality to an already crushing breakdown. When picking the two tracks to give a taste of the album to the public, Blessthefall chose two songs that show all of the characteristics that the fans of the band have grown to love over the years.
Cutthroat is an entirely different game. The track shifts the dynamic of the album and provides some much needed heaviness in the middle section of Hard Feelings. The track comes out of the gates with a groove-laden, heavy riff that grabs you instantly and forces you to bang your head. Is it overly original? No. But it is a welcome change to the pedestrian pace that the album has displayed for the most part leading to this point, and the guitar parts themselves sound like Restoring Force era Of Mice And Men which is in no means a bad thing. Warth takes the lead on this track and shows from the outset what this album seems to have lacked up until this point, and that is some straight up ferocity. With a harsh vocalist with this level of ability among your ranks it seems almost criminal that he hasn’t been utilised more on this release, and this is no more apparent than when the band slam the breaks on mid groove for the chorus. Now don’t get us wrong, the chorus is all well and good and it goes without saying that it will be an earworm after you’ve heard it, but that doesn’t detract away from the fact that it muzzles the heaviest track on Hard Feelings so far. On the other hand the excellent riff that appears just after the crescendo in the song is a real highlight on the album, and shows just what the guitarists Eric Lambert and Elliot Gruenberg are capable of when they are allowed to do their own thing.
Overall we would say that this is a decent album. There are plenty of moments throughout Hard Feelings that are very enjoyable: the soft, melodic Sleepless In Phoenix; and the radio friendly Welcome Home. However it seems that the band are taking a rather misjudged leap into the overly melodic half of metalcore, which seems like a strange decision given the critical praise of their two previous, heavier albums Hollow Bodies and To Those Left Behind. The band clearly has an ear for melody, but their previous two releases seemed to be carving a niche on the market with their ability to mix heavy, technical musicianship and massive vocal hooks.
This is by no means a bad album, but it is a pretty uneventful and unimaginative one.
Standout Track: Melodramatic
For Fans Of: Memphis May Fire, We Came As Romans, The Word Alive
Written by: Richard Webb