Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Bloodgood - Dangerously Close (2013)
Bands from the 80's coming back and reactivating has become more than a trend in the last few years. Indeed, it has become cliche, to the point where every nickel and dime group that made any impact is getting back together to try and make another run on the 'nostalgia circuit'. Fans of any band can't be faulted for wanting their favorite group to come back and make another record, go on tour, etc. because we all have that desire to 'relive the good old days' from time to time, and old favorites reuniting to record, tour, and so on, help scratch that itch. Most of the time it's a cash grab, and fans eat it up even if they're aware of it, because it's a favorite and they want to support them. Sometimes, though, the comeback is completely legitimate when a band was truly broken up, away from the scene, with little or no indication that something was going to happen to bring that back. I'd argue that Bloodgood is a prime example of the latter.
Bloodgood broke up in 1993, after an 8-year run, 5 studio albums, 2 live albums, and VHS releases of those 2 live records, complete with theatrical performances, and a compilation of singles and material from several albums. In particular, their "Detonation" album garnered high praise and worldwide acclaim for it's quality songs, high energy, and emotional material. The band moved in a less metallic direction after that, with "Rock In a Hard Place" bringing a more diversified sound, and "Out of the Darkness" continuing with that trend after the departure of original guitarist David Zaffiro. The band's final studio album, "All Stand Together", suffered somewhat from having too many tracks and not enough "rock" in the mix. The band's comeback album, "Dangerously Close", rectifies that by practically forgetting that album exists and providing what could have been a direct followup to "Out of the Darkness", with surprisingly good results after a 22-year hiatus.
Right off the bat you know this is a modern album by the production, sound quality, and guitar sound, but the songwriting and style hearkens back to an earlier time of hard rock music, not the overly compressed and artificially heavy sound of a band like Nickelback. Instead, we get real hard rock and melodic heavy metal music from a veteran of the sound, and it sounds genuine and real. Too often, new bands that play this style come along with production that makes the music sound too "plastic" to try and capitalize on modern production techniques, but ends up taking away from the music by having too much of an "in your face" sound. This record strikes a nice balance between a modern sound, a heavier guitar element, and that more "organic" sound that helps music like this feel less like a product and more like real art from real artists. Everything here is well produced, the instruments all sound good and come through in the mix (including Michael's bass!), and the levels are appropriate for the material.
Paul Jackson and Oz Fox's guitars have a nice crunch in the heavier parts, and though they have a modern feel to them, they feels like good hard rock and melodic metal guitar should, with enough whine and wail when the sound calls for it. There's some real nice dual guitar work here and there, with some layered soloing and harmonized riffs that work really well. I kind of wish they had capitalized on that a little more, but what's here works quite well. I also like the fact that it's not just one guitar tone or texture through the album - they use various levels of distortion and crunch, as well as some nice clean guitar work (such as in "Father Father") that brings more variety to the table. Unlike "Rock In a Hard Place", Michael's bass is loud and clear here. In spots, it almost feels like too much, as if the bass is a little too prominent in the mix, but he can be forgiven for wanting to be out there, given the lack of bass in some of their material, and the prominence of bass guitar in modern hard rock and commercial metal mixes. As it stands, he sounds as good as ever, and adds that extra thump as would be expected. Returning skinsman Kevin Whistler provides a solid, workmanlike performance here with a couple nice surprises, such as the double-bass work in "Bread Alone".
Les Carlsen is in fine form here, and frankly, sounds way better than any rock vocalist at his age has a right to. You'd think he'd lose some of his range or ability over time, and while he doesn't wail at the same level here as he did on "Detonation" or the debut album, the material doesn't really call for that. Instead, he still hits the high notes with aplomb and shows he has a sense of dynamics, as well as adding that emotional resonance that has made past performances so interesting to listen to. His unique vocal sound is still his own, and he continues to bring that element to the Bloodgood sound that helps give the band their own sound and feel. The way he flawlessly double-tracks his vocals as well gives the vocal sound on the album that extra something.
I don't have any specific criticisms of the album, per se, other than the fact that leading off the album with "Lamb of God" is perhaps slightly underwhelming, given the strength of the other material. It's a mid-tempo rocker with a simple hook, but it's not the strongest track on the album, nor is it the strongest musical statement. Otherwise, the songwriting here is pretty strong, as compared to the band's back catalog, and they've created a winning album here that stands up well against what I'd call the second half of their discography. Comparing this to early works like "Detonation" is like comparing apples and watermelon - two variations of a similar theme, but different enough that they really aren't wholly comparable. If you prefer the more metal side of Bloodgood, spin the first couple records, because chances are, they're not returning to that sound. However, if "Rock In an Hard Place" or "Out of the Darkness" are among your favorites, consider "Dangerously Close" in the same league as those records, and pick up a copy to support the band. These are some catchy tunes that I've been spinning for weeks, and they haven't got old yet. Recommended.