January 31st, 2012
Release length: 39:10
The Great Fire once again shows a pretty strong production with some great work in the studio. The drums are the most prominant element of the recording, and by that it means the loudest. The cymbals are pretty clear in the mix, but it’s largely the click of the bass kicks that overpower everything else. Sadly, this include the snares, which end up kind of drowned out in the mix, especially against the keyboards, which seem to be equally as loud as the cymbals. The guitars are pretty high in the mix too, having the more traditional Hardcore distortion to them that many acts of the Metalcore style use today, sort of a mid-ranged blunt sound with a dirtiness that comes off really tight and quick for high impact purposes, leaving nothing to really ring out or linger with an echo despite how the instrument is played. These are grounded a little more by the bass that is obvious in the mix, but really comes off better when backing the main chords than when you can pick them out in the background as they simply clash with the hardcore attitude and sound thanks to higher notes that are played like during the blast beat sections of “One by One.” The screaming is leveled well enough, not letting anything drown out the stern and abrasive tone that suits the guitar chords. However, when the music is loud and really rich, the clean singing on some of the tracks can be completely inaudible.
So, as you progress through The Great Fire ends up being proof that louder really isn’t always better, and sadly that is displayed quite often here. “The March” tries to set up a bit of an epic introductory track that eventually goes into more of an ominous guitar driven slower-paced instrumental that just builds up too quickly and loses the atmospheric impact pretty quickly due to it. This bleeds into “Faith in Fire” that carries the sound over nicely with an aggressive Metalcore intensity. The keyboards do work well to re-establish the tone that was lost part way through “The March,” and the faster music definitely makes up for the less than two minute track length. The breakdown here carries that same impact the rest of the song has, despite the loss of speed obviously, and becomes a nice way to close the track out as well. But, at the same time, it feels as if the album kicks off with two introductory tracks since “Faith in Fire” doesn’t quite feel like it was pushed to its full potential and ended maybe half way before really going anywhere.
The gap between this and “Say Goodbye to Death,” however, is minimal, finding the song just blasting right in with pure, unbridled intensity right from the start with catchy riffs that hitthe listener with a Hardcore attitude and a vocal performance that comes off fed up and perfectly suiting to the chaotic, grim atmosphere that the keyboards fuel the it with. But, again, that louder sound actually hurts the track in a manner that causes the music to become a little on the muddy side, and not in a good way. The chords end up drowned out somewhat, and the clarity to some just sound more like noise at times. “Final Hour” is victim of this as well thanks to the drowned out clean singing due to the bass kicks and the louder keyboards, plus the effects on the keyboard that largely hit during the cleaner passages, such as that and other instruments going in reverse for a second, or short gaps of silence blended in before the chorus picks back up really leave you straining to hear the performance in general. This is all a horrible thing considering the song sounds great, even with the breakdown and the transition in it towards the end of the track. But, even with the faults from the volume of the song, this is one you’ll still come back to after the initial spin.
Infact, there are still plenty of good songs on here that, regardless of the levels sometime wreaking havoc on how well everything works together, you’ll still find yourself enjoying. “Everything You Love is Gone” is another aggressive shorter track that has a better grip on the length than “Faith in Fire” did. The song has a furious pace to it, and with that the aggression comes through in both the music and vocals well, stemming as a more emotionally enraged song in the vocals, but showing a bit of a pattern for the band on this album of ending the song on a breakdown, something that has happened a number of times before already, and will continue to happen throughout the release. “Deaf Ears” is another song well worth paying attention to for pretty much the same reasons of hostility as “Everything You Love is Gone.” The abrasive vocals coincide nicely with the returning somewhat chaotic sound from all the instruments, and more Hardcore attitude in some of the verses that really just make it sound like a song that could only really be described as bad ass for its style. There also ends up being a nice balance of the keyboards and atmospheric verses through the rest of it, finding nothing really dominating one or the other, and not concluding with another breakdown.
Those are a few of the tracks that do still shine. But, on top of the aforementioned breakdown pattern, “Walking Dead” gives a bit of a gothic vibe thanks to the keyboards, really taking a lot from Cradle of Filth to the point of nearly ripping the band off in those sections, though outside those additional keyboard elements the band shies away and offers a more traditional Metalcore sound to the main verses and breakdown. Sadly this is another trend through the album you can pick up on, though nothing really shows prior to this song. “Step Back in Line” does have that same similar gothic approach in the same kind of foundation with yet another breakdown closing the track out. It’s another decent track either way, and the same goes for “Trail of Seclusion.” This song leaves the gothic tone behind completely, though it starts with horribly altered keyboards that are meant to sound like an audio sampling of a sixties church organ sound, or something similar, but again the volume affects this with its already high pitched sound from the effect making it nearly ear-piercing. The rest of the song blends a good deal of melody into the intensity with much stronger clean singing passages that are louder than on previous songs, but you can hear an additional distorted approach that is amplified by the layering, making them sound watery instead of just a using said layered backing vocals to make it richer. There’s also “One by One” and, oh my way the problems this suffers from. The volume finds the drumming sounding like a monkey going at the snares with the rest of the instruments not synching up at all, and the keyboards giving more of a Spanish matador effect to the music that just does not work with the music or vocals at all. This song has a good deal of energy behind it, but it easily is one of the worst offerings to be found on this release.
The digipack version of this release comes with a bonus DVD that is a live performance of the band from Chain Reaction and, honestly, if you’ve never seen Bleeding Through live before, even on their previous This is Live, This is Murderous release, this really makes buying The Great Fire worth it. The same goes for if you have. You get to see the band performing some of their best material on stage in a raw atmosphere, though the video is professionally shot and the audio captured more from the speakers than the sound board without much or little studio interference, but it also seems to be their way of retiring older songs from their set list according to statements by the vocalist on stage. The production aspect of the DVD also captures that gritty rawer trait well with shaky camera work and more sporadic zooms, as well as sudden panning, all from in the pit and on stage. There’s also no random ADHD-riddled scene cuts every split second, so you can actually follow the action on the screen, though it does have a few here and there throughout the DVD, as well as a small number of the quicker shifts from one shot to another with the same camera that leave you wishing they stayed on the subject longer, or didn’t pan away from it so fast that you couldn’t actually take it all in with what time was given.
But the real plus here is the band themselves. Bleeding Through clearly bring a great deal of energy with them on the stage, and that’s one thing that makes this group so great live. The vocalist always gets the crowd involved, acknowledging them and really trying to get them involved with the show in many ways like reaching into the fans and having them scream or sing along with the songs, or inviting them on stage to accompany him on the mic, largely for the songs that they claim to be retiring at the event. It seems that the more amped the crowd response is, the more enthusiastic the band members are. The live interpretations of the songs are also great to hear, being solid performances that capture the raw intensity that the studio recordings only slightly give due to the cleaner aspect of being in a modern, digital recording facility in general. “Lost in a Hail of Gunfire” starts the gig off perfectly, going into “Sweet Vampirous,” but those songs only feed the crowd and the energy builds with every song that follows. Of course some adrenaline seems to die down, and by “On Wings of Lead” you can tell the band, especially the vocalist, is getting worn out, approaching the song more with clean harmonized singing than actually screaming along like the original performance has. The only fault here is that, thanks to the rawer sound, the slower parts, with or without clean singing, really end up losing their edge and can actually come out sounding horrible, such as during “Turns Cold to the Touch.” There’s also this hum that, regardless what player I had it in, kept coming out of the speakers while watching it, largely when the stage lights were captured in the video. The brighter they seemed to be, the louder and more annoying the hum became.
As a side note for the Digipack, the packaging isn’t your traditional approach. The lyrics are printed on the left and right side panels, with the right side panel being what you see when you open the cover panel first, and the left being behind that cover panel. There’s also the thank you and other information behind the discs, which both have the same artwork and no differing qualities between the twoanywhere outside of how they look on the back when it comes to factory pressed CD verses DVD. But, the more aggravating part is that the text is a deep red against varying other dark colors like black, which makes the text very hard to read in certain lights.
Honestly, The Great Fire really shows the potential Bleeding Through has to release a strong album. But, instead, we’re given a reason why the statement “The louder it is, the better it is!” just doesn’t always work out. The music here really is affected by how loud everything is by having instruments or vocals drowned out, or just mixing together horribly. Aside that you also get plenty of repetition, some shorter tracks that go nowhere, plenty of “It’s Cradle of Filth! Now it’s not! It is again! And now it’s not!” moments that really make you bang your head on the desk wondering why they would include what obviously sounds like that more modern “Extreme Goth Metal” signature for the group, and the constantly repetitive way of ending a song with a breakdown. The many longer tracks here, really are the better offerings in the end, and ultimately make you feel like the band just rushed a handful of filler material with shorter lengths to try to feed more padding into the album while trying to pass it off as a Hardcore and somewhat Grindcore influence. There’s no denying Bleeding Through has plenty of potential, and in an effort to merge their current and older sounds together did a good job with what they could, but in the end it feels like much of this release was simply a frustratingly obvious paint-by-numbers project that just couldn’t deliver one hundred percent. It has it’s pros, especially the Digipack version which has a DVD that makes the purchase well worth it despite what the album sounds like, but it’s littered with too many cons to keep you coming back outside of a rainy day listen.
01. The March – 1:45
02. Faith in Fire – 1:54
03. Say Goodbye to Death – 2:33
04. Final Hour – 3:57
05. Starving Vultures – 2:44
06. Everything You Love is Gone – 1:49
07. Walking Dead – 4:06
08. The Devil and Self Doubt – 3:03
09. Step Back in Line – 2:47
10. Trail of Seclusion – 3:41
11. Deaf Ears – 2:55
12. One by One – 1:38
13. Entrenched – 3:42
14. Back to Life – 2:39
|Initial Score: 5/10
Digipack Edition Score: 7/10
Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.