Touting their latest album as “a giant fucking leap forward”, Blessthefall are setting themselves high for the release of To Those Left Behind. And there are definite pushes into new territory from the Arizona metalcore band – with lower tunings and some darker flavours edging through. Part of a rapidly diversifying genre, the heavier feel works well for Blessthefall. Also looking towards more electronic effects on this record, To Those Left Behind skirts between breakthrough and simply breaking.
Their second release with producer Joey Sturgis, the album is well crafted but unfortunately the constant downfall is that it is too clean. But that is mainly from the standpoint that something in the mix just needs more edge. And it’s criticism that is mostly applicable to vocalist Beau Bokan, unfortunately his clean vocals would be more at home in a pop punk outfit and the higher pitch drowns out the music which is actually Blessthefall’s strength. Single release Walk On Water opens with barrage of down-tuned guitar and relentless drumming from Matt Trayner, and the vocal interplay of clean and unclean works really well. Bokan’s vocal really needs that foundation, left out in the cold on the breakdown it feels too reedy. But saying that, when he really pushes it out the aggression carries it – along with some effective doubletracking.
Pushing in new directions isn’t necessarily a good move, later track Looking Down The Edge just serves to highlight the pop quality of Bokan’s cleans next to the synths they’ve used. The intro features a strobing synth that feels like a club hit, and once again they’ve tried for atmosphere that just isn’t held up by the vocals. The instrumentation does create that wall of sound that you would look for in a metalcore release, and the cleans cut through that effectively but just too sharply and with too much contrast.
The title track To Those Left Behind is definitely one of the strongest song on the album, opening with an atmospheric build that owes more to big beats and looming melodies. Also with the majority of the vocals unclean, suddenly the intense drumming and bassline is audible. Changing up the ratios works really well here, with Bokan’s doubletracked cleans bringing the track to life. A muted breakdown is much more effective, leading up to a real wall of sound where Blessthefall really do hit the spot. Final track Departures is a weaker ending to the record, verging on a ballad and leaning on the clean vocals, strings are tucked away in the mix and the whole things sits on the fence between haunting and angst. The sound of a door closing finishes the album, which is just a little too contrived after the meat of the release.
It feels like To Those Left Behind could be the precursor to a truly great album from Blessthefall. With absolutely nothing lacking in musicianship and songwriting – it is a well crafted collection of metalcore songs – there are definitely some elements that need reconciling. And some elements, like the battering drumming and the razor sharp guitar work, that should be given more of a spotlight