Artist: Bless the Child
To a certain extent, things are only partially defined by their own composition. True, a bird is a bird because of its feathers, lower than average bone density and beak. These are things that all—or at least a majority—of our feathered friends have in common. However, objects and people are also defined by their surroundings; it isn’t his flesh and bone that makes your boss superior to you in any way; it’s his swankier office, nicer car and higher paycheck, right? In this respect, we are all bound, captive—no matter how much we may fight to prove otherwise. We are all surrounded by walls: things that limit our potential and keep us contained. Columbus crushers Bless the Child know this, however, on their debut full-length release, Walls, they aim to prove it wrong. By combining engaging, innovative songwriting with equal parts lethal heaviness and lacerating technicality, Bless the Child raise their sledgehammer of stunning deathcore musicianship and take a swing at the Walls that hold them captive—even if their attempts at breaking down their barriers is met with only partial success.
On one hand, Bless the Child are a metallic, riff-friendly shred machine, laying down layer after layer of solid, death metal-influenced instrumentation. “Transcendence” is one track in particular that showcases the extreme prowess of guitarists Derek Young and Jordan Slack. Young and Slack battle back and forth, clashing frets with magnificent fury, crafting riff after riff that sear into the listener’s brain as if branded there. Young and Slack’s sprawling, shreddy battles roam across a plains of punctual, intense drumming from the hands of Mark Evans, who is more than proficient at everything from splashy, colorful beats to machine-gun blast beats that fire away so recklessly, they leave the listener looking like a piece of Swiss cheese. Together, these elements combine to create an epic, metallic atmosphere that will have fans banging their heads until they snap their necks; especially on Walls’ more epic and languid tracks like “Transcendence” and “Born As Dust.” These tracks prove that Bless the Child are well versed in iconic bands like Glass Casket and At the Gates—bands which have successfully build a devastating deathcore dominion on a foundation of sturdy death metal influences.
On the other hand, Bless the Child have not forsaken their penchant for brooding heaviness by focusing on a more metallic substructure. “Illusions of Control” and “Disease Will Overcome”—as well as the brilliantly catchy and marvelous “Intro”—feature a roaring, snapping low end that pours forth from the thick-stringed riff machine in the hands of Steve Shelini. Shelini adds a deep, plodding tone to Evans’ beefy kick and resonating toms that sounds as if it could shake the earth. Even amid the most technically impervious instances of Walls, Shelini can be heard rollicking beneath the furiously fretted fray, snapping, booming and writhing away a foundation so grimy, it feels as if the entire track is coated in mud. Shelini’s sinister bass work is perhaps under-utilized throughout Walls, as the album could use more brilliantly written breakdowns like the ones found in the album’s introduction and “Killroom” sprinkled in among the dissonant wonderland found in the razor-sharp fretwork that Walls is defined by.
Between intense death metal and chug-friendly metalcore, Walls is an exemplary instance of deathcore the way fans of the genre’s early days will want to hear it. One part contagiously catchy and crushing chuggathon and another part insidious, shearing shred, Walls is an experience bridged by careful songwriting and diverse vocal work from the throat of Brian Jones. Jones lets loose with an entire variety of visceral, hard-hitting vocals that save the album from monotony and predictability. While Walls is a solid listen, it is still ultimately bound by the most basic tenants of deathcore, and does little to truly separate itself from other releases within the genre. Moments of “Indiscriminate Annihilation” sound as if they could be Salt the Wound B-sides, while moments of “Transcendence” wouldn’t be out of place on an As Blood Runs Black album. While these sound like slamming criticisms, the truth is that, ultimately, it is something Bless the Child should be proud of—if not slightly wary of to boot. While these bands are indeed figurative giants of the genre, influential by definition, they force the listener into acknowledging that Walls seems almost dated in a genre that demands constant adaptation and renovation in order to stay “relevant.” At the end of the day, however, Bless the Child have put forth an album that could contend with deathcore’s legends at their prime—even if it might have come out two years too late.
Just because Walls fails to do the impossible and redefine an entire genre with one release doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Bless the Child have put forth a monstrous effort that has all the technicality fans of old-school death metal will want, and all the brutalizing, spine-snapping heaviness the listener could ever need.
For Fans Of: Salt the Wound, At The Gates, As Blood Runs Black, Glass Casket
By: Connor Welsh