REVIEW: Blackwell – Bitter Reflections [2014/EP]


Artist: Blackwell

Album: Bitter Reflections – EP


Every one of us carries around preconceived notions about who we are, what we look like and what our idea of the “world.” When we wake up in the morning, we know the morning commute to school or work awaits us. When we get out of the shower and look in the mirror, we know exactly what half-asleep, careless and apathetic face will look back at us. This is an immense weight that sits on our shoulders—a yoke of hopeless repetition. That dreary, desperate image staring back at you in the mirror is the embodiment of the misanthropy and anger that is Bitter Reflections, the debut EP by Californian down-tempo crushers Blackwell. Filled to the brim with nothing but the most hopelessly self-revulsive spite and hatred the genre has ever seen, Bitter Reflection is the sound of animosity so pure that the listener will waste no time in chucking a stone through the mirror that casts their reflection, rejecting the world around them and the lies it holds.

Blackwell’s debut EP has all of the heft and grit of a brick, poised perfectly in the listener’s hand and aimed at their reflection. Bitter Reflections is filled with that raw, heavy energy that sounds like deep, throbbing anger. Grime-covered and groovy guitars lay tracks of raw, steely heaviness for the percussion to hammer down the listener’s spine—this is especially clear in “Sanity,” a track that embeds itself in the back of the listeners head and throbs, slowly but surely wearing their sanity into sand and their mind into mush. Every track Blackwell attack the listener with is like this to some degree—bringing deep, pounding percussion to the frontlines of the band’s war on sanity, fighting with down-tuned, demoralizing riffs that feel as though they are coated with a thick layer of sludge. In large part, this assisted by the bass playing of Casey Benz, which adds a meaty, blood-red beatdown influence to even the more technical aspects of the release. Benz’s bass playing adds more beef to the guitar and drums than Wendy’s adds beef to their burgers.

While the heft and grain of the brick in your palm is marked and rough, its edges remain sharp and crisp—digging into your hand the tighter you squeeze, drawing blood from the creases in your fingers. This sharpness is Blackwell’s technicality—their razor sharp riffing and pummeling, intense drum fills—and one of their greatest weapons in the cupboard of crushing anger that is Bitter Reflection. “Strain,” for example—along with “Sanity” and “False Claims” to lesser degrees—feature portions of furiously fretted guitar and frantic, gut-busting percussion that cuts and slices at the listener’s body and soul rather than beating it into submission and rubbing its face in the dirt. As portions of the most misanthropic parts of “False Claims” bleed the listener try, Blackwell do nothing but smile, twisting the blade more and more just to watch their victims—their false perceptions and weighted realities—turn into shriveled shells of their once illustrious selves.

Gritty, grim, sharp and soul-shredding, Bitter Reflections is topped off by one of the most intense and emotional vocal performances the down-tempo/deathcore/hardcore fusion of genres has seen to date. With the misanthropy and mass-hatred of Traitors, but the self-loathing and grime of Sworn In and Barrier, Blackwell combine their beefy and slimy tones with crisp, cutting sections of shred and technicality with a glue made of dynamic vocals. These vocals relay lyrics that slice their way through the listeners ribs and pump their hearts with closed fists. The emotion present throughout Bitter Reflections reaches right to the listener’s heart, but rather than lift it up, it squeezes it to bursting with pure anger and bitter angst. This is true of quite honestly every track throughout the EP. In short, the vocals take the best aspects from every element of the band’s immersive dynamic and hold them together, making the EP comprehensive and awe-inspiring.

Shatter the mirror that tells you who you are, and be what you want. This is Blackwell’s mission—and they succeed. Bitter Reflections is filled with the raw, dissonant energy that it takes to inspire action into the heart of the listener and compel them to throw a brick of self-made manic-depressive misanthropy through a window of the establishment that is the world which places the yoke of humanity on their shoulders. Blackwell encourage the listener to choose something greater.



For Fans Of: Kingmaker, Traitors, Barrier, Sworn In, Submissioner

By: Connor Welsh