REVIEW: Mouth for War – Bleed Yourself [2023]

Artist: Mouth for War
Album: Bleed Yourself

Metalcore is a loaded word that speaks on stylings that range from Eighteen Visions’ early works to artists like Abandon All Ships and then again to artists like Silent Planet and…well, everything in between. While metalcore isn’t the dirty word is was in the middle-to-late 2010s (to most people, at least), it’s still fair to say that when someone says “hey, check out this metalcore band,” you could get a band in the vein of any one of the above bands—or something else totally different that still manages to fall under that umbrella. When you press play on Bleed Yourself, you’re uncorking what is likely the most quintessentially metalcore experience 2023 has to offer; a visceral thirty-five minutes loaded with primal, punishing aggression, capable of slicing with sharp, precise intent while simultaneously bludgeoning the listener to death without the slightest hint of tact or refrain (with nothing really in common with Abandon All Ships, just to put those fears to bed). Bleed Yourself is a crushing, distilled homage to the roots of metalcore with touches of heavy hardcore and modern death metal to add a fine layer of grit and depth—ultimately making it one of the year’s last (and most anticipated) records fans of heavy music must listen to.
Once Mouth for War kick up the heat on introductory cut “Roses in Place of Your Ashes,” they never back off to let things simmer, as Bleed Yourself is an immolating, immersive plunge into pure, practically-tangible punishment. Just as “Roses in Place of Your Ashes” balances poignant, poetic lyricism with a penchant for piercing percussion and ruthless riffs, the cuts that follow—especially “No Grace”—stop at nothing to beat the listener to a wilted, vapid pulp. Here, a dense helping of bass work side by side with booming percussion, building a broad and comprehensive firmament for guitars that chug with the intensity of a transcontinental train to shine. This massive instrumental dynamic sets the tone for a raw and frenzied vocal approach—one that takes the poise and introspection abundant on “Roses” and turns into a practically primitive assault with each harshly spat syllable landing like acid on the listener’s ear drums.
This dynamic builds as Bleed Yourself continues to run rampant, with each track building on the last, amplifying the degree to which Mouth for War’s breakdowns and bodacious grooves flatten the listener. While the vaguely serene and haunting “In Lieu of Flowers” nearly lulls the listener into a sense of complacency, the following track—and personal favorite—“The Devil” dominates as one of Mouth for War’s most comprehensively evil and violence-inciting numbers to date. “The Devil” shines a bright, bold—and somewhat twisted—beacon for all those embarking on the metalcore journey to pay homage to. A series of fleetly-fingered leads and adrenergic salvos of percussion highlight the number, however its the scattered samples and the lyrics (not to mention the manner in which they are delivered) that build to the song’s climactic breakdown that make it arguably the strongest song on Bleed Yourself. Strategically placed half-way through the release, it serves as the sledgehammer decimating the levy, busting the dam and drowning the listener beneath leagues of perfectly-crafted metalcore. The remainder of the release is a blur—but in a good way—with “Saturate Me” and “Under the Gun” reminding the listener how powerful Mouth for War can sound, but with album closer “Bleed Yourself” showcasing all that the band can do—bass-heavy downbeats, ear-catching grooves, scintillating leads and of course, the almighty breakdown.
Bleed Yourself is a record I expected to like, but probably not love—in keeping with a lot of my experiences with the mosh-heavy metalcore records of the year. I was mistaken, and I could not have been more happy to be so. Bleed Yourself is a testament to expertly done heavy music—and while “metalcore” is the tag I’ve tossed around maybe too much during this article, the truth is that they draw influence from such a resounding array of styles that to label them simply as that seems a little lackluster, even if—at the end of the day—Mouth for War are a metalcore band through and through, and Bleed Yourself is not just a metalcore record, but perhaps the metalcore record of 2023.

For Fans Of: Mugshot, Extortionist, Degrader, Gideon, Kublai Khan Tx
Connor Welsh