Artist: Left Behind
Album: Blessed by the Burn
Imagine being so close to hell that you smell like Satan’s own sulphurous sweat. Your skin darkened by the coal, lips dry and cracked from the heat—mouth parched, eyes likes two small deserts, sunken back into your skull. Your clothes are tattered, a mess from both neglect and the infernal heat that defined your existence for those weeks, months, or years you traversed on Hades’ edge.
You’ve been so close to Hell even your soul is burnt—a withered scrap of its former self.
You’ve been places you never thought, seen things you never can un-see and felt things that no human being should ever feel. You’ve heard the latest Left Behind release—and as a result, you’re Blessed by the Burn. An aptly titled collection of emotionally dismal, draining and dreary songs sprawled over a canvas of crushing aggression and relentless power, Blessed by the Burn is the gloomier, grittier continuation of the band’s immense previous release, Seeing Hell. Heavier, more energetic, dense and devastating—and also a little weirder than its predecessor—Blessed by the Burn is a masterful amalgamation of raunchy, thrashy metal and go-for-the-throat hardcore with a distinct, spicy southern seasoning and a unique twist that only the members of Left Behind could put to it. In short, Blessed by the Burn is a one-of-a-kind listening experience that will take the listener places they’ll never see coming, and can never fully forget.
Dragging the listener on a voyage that traverses the circumference of Hell’s immense bowels is nothing new to the masters of metallic hardcore that are Left Behind. Blessed by the Burn, is, in many ways the next steps in the departure from conventional heaviness that Seeing Hell so proudly embarked upon—bringing even more maturation, growth, introspection and intensity that comes only with time and experience. Percussionist Zak Rea remains the band’s core, working in monstrous tandem with bassist Cade Lewis to make every aspect of every song feel grim, gloomy and grotesque, drowning in a fuzz-laden low-end that practically suffocates the listener. The harsh and hell-raising “West by God” highlights this—as does the unorthodox “Twenty Four,” which, even in spite of its grating industrial nature, sees Rea’s drumming rattling in the background all the same. Rea’s work remains on the more simple side of things; Blessed by the Burn isn’t a record for those lusting for the glitzy, overproduced percussion jam-packed with glamorous (albeit over-programmed and infeasible) fills and technicality. Rea’s work is firmly, solidly real, hammering a nail into the listener’s head with every sharp, tinny snare hit and ringing, clanging smack of the ride bell—and where his kick drum hits, Lewis’ bass is never too far behind. These two craft a sprawling low end that gives guitarists Jordan Lorea and Bryan Rea to roam. Take “Blessed by the Burn,” for example: while it begins with a heavily thrash influenced series of sharp riffs and pinch-laden leads, it slowly decays into a raunchy, dancy track that leaves plenty of opportunity for stage-divers and pit-fiends alike to leave their marks in the walls and inhabitants of venues wherever Left Behind roam. Then, there’s “West by God,” or “Tough Love,” which are sinister, scathing displays of tactless aggression—much like the latter half of the album’s title track turns out to be. But just as Seeing Hell did, Blessed by the Burn is not without it’s unusual and immersive, jaw-droppingly unique numbers (well, okay, every song is unique, but you catch my drift). “Sweetness of Nothing” is one such track, mesmerizing and nearly beautiful in a scar-laden and scary way—while “Early Mourning” is, again, thickly smeared with bass-heavy grime, giving it a lo-fi finish that goes down smooth as warm milk, but with the toxic effects of cyanide.
Blessed by the Burn finds itself not just a musical tale of harrowing, hellish proportion, but a lyrical journey through emotional lows and lurid, jarring settings told by frontman Zachary Hatfield. Hatfield’s voice roars, distinct in a time with a crowded heavy music community bloated with vocalists all vying for the same extreme ranges and ear-splitting styles. Rather than try to wow the listener with range and technical mastery, Hatfield lashes out like King Kong, using his monstrous, booming voice to knock the listener flat on their ass without effort. This is true from the first syllables of “West by God,” through songs like “Sweetness of Nothing” and the incredible, emotionally compromising and intense “Tough Love.” Hatfield takes the same strength and power he boasted on Seeing Hell and adds more personality and depth to his writing—maintaining mosh-fueling intensity on the album’s opening number and “Paranoid” while using songs like”Twenty Four” and “Tough Love” to catch the listener totally off guard. It’s hard to describe Hatfield’s voice; it’s meaty, grisly, raw and ferocious, but it evokes a primal fury and rage within the listener that inspires straight, unfiltered violence, even with the intense sensations and emotional complexity that details the more personal parts of Hatfields writing—so should you be in search of a frontman that peerlessly combined heaviness and heartfelt sensation, you aren’t anymore.
Blessed by the Burn is as close to Hell as you will ever intentionally bring yourself—yet you’ll find yourself doing it again, and again, and again. In a lot of ways, it isn’t as “weird” as some of the more out-there tracks on Seeing Hell, but it certainly is just as unique, even if it manages that in a different way. “Twenty Four” and “Burn Out” are unlike anything the band have done yet—and “Tough Love” is a sucker-punch of a number that stands to be one of 2017’s best songs to date. The point is simple; if you light it ablaze and lean in close, you too will find yourself Blessed by the Bone
For Fans Of: Varials, Mercy Blow, Knocked Loose, Orthodox, Pains
By: Connor Welsh