Blessthefall has acquired a trait that many bands in the hardcore scene have still not been able to figure out: sticking to what they’re good at. In a music scene filled with fakes, generic rip-offs, and imitators, it’s hard to distinguish what’s genuine. Now this can be both a negative and positive quality. They have achieved what I can describe as both “the good and bad.”
Now with Awakening being BTF’s third record, they have established their sound within the confines of the metalcore scene dominated by breakdowns, bass drops, and chugs. If they did anything different, their perception would instantly change. Is that bad? Not at all, as long as those changes are well thought out, not pretentious, and for the best of the music. Although that’s not what they’ve done here, they know exactly who they are.
From the start of upbeat opener “Awakening,” the positive-feeling melody that drives it will instantly get you stoked for the rest of the record. “Promised Ones” is a straight kick to the face, melodic and vicious. Starting with bassist Jared Warth’s shrieking high yell and drummer Matt Traynor’s pounding machine-gun double bass, the pit will open up immediately. That energy doesn’t slow down throughout the next few tracks. “Bottomfeeder” is relentless, and features the best ending to any song on the record thanks to the brilliant instrumentation, as the energy is progressively raised higher and higher until it ruptures with a Jared/Beau Bokan vocal harmony combo that will leave you with shivers. It could be an absolutely stellar closer to their live set.
The duo of “I’m Bad News, In The Best Way” and “The Reign” are both incredibly brutal songs in their own right, each with soaring melodies and heavy hitting verses in-and-out, the latter featuring a very tasteful vocal effect over a breakdown near the end. Michael “Elvis” Baskette’s production work stands out again on this record, because the editing is nearly flawless. “40 Days” and “Bones Crew” take down the heat a couple notches, trading breakdowns for long choruses and melodic, tightly knit guitar riffs. Bokan is at his best in the soulful moments that drench these two songs.
Right back into the fray with “Don’t Say Goodbye,” guitarists Elliott Gruenberg and Eric Lambert truly shine on this one, blending simplicity with technicality. By this time, however, the sound that BTF has been pounding down your ear holes starts to wear on you, blending into a sea of well-done but similar instrumentation; this is where songs like “Undefeated” and “Till the Death of Me” get lost. Thankfully, after the passing of interlude “Flatline” they redeem themselves with the longest (at over 7 minutes) and most experimental song on the record, “Meet Me at the Gates.” Lyrically, it’s a bit depressing for these dudes, but they channel it strongly and passionately. Featuring crisp programming and concise vocal work courtesy of Bokan, this song stands out as one of the strongest on the record.
Awakening is good and there is no denying it, but one of the few flaws in general is its lack of variety. That’s the bad part about doing what you do so well; it’s easy to get comfortable once you’ve found your niche. Not adding differences to change the format can make anything appear stale. I’ve heard people say that this is just “Witness 2.0,” but I honestly don’t agree. There is a progression to be found here, as the musicianship as a whole is not only tighter, but the songs have steadily gotten more complicated. All I would like to see from these guys is more progression and variety next time around. If so, then that next record could be a real game-changer in the increasingly saturated metalcore music world.