There are few things more disheartening in music than seeing a fantastic album get bogged down in label politics. Trustkill, Bleeding Through’s previous label managed to muck up the release of 2008’s superb Declaration spectacularly thanks to a lengthy delay and barely any promotion to speak of. Considering the band’s previous effort (2006’s The Truth) sold a quarter of a million copies worldwide, the paltry 6, 000 units its predecessor shifted in its first week was a massive shame for such a epic, brutal and truly engaging metal record. Claiming that this has defined the band’s career subsequently would be a mistake, and The Great Fire, just like 2010’s self-titled effort is another solid collection of hardcore-influenced extreme metal, but it struggles to distinguish itself from the band’s career highlight.
Before angry crowds gather to pick fault with the old “it’s not as good as such-and-such album”, it’s worth stating that The Great Fire is still a beast. The symphonic keyboards, brutal blastbeats and Brandon Schieppati’s commanding bark are still here along with a more traditional, hardcore approach with most of the fourteen songs on offer clocking in at under three minutes. It’s concise, to-the-point and leaves little room for misreading its intentions of kicking your backside up to your throat. The occasional melodic passage and clean vocal do break things up from being an extended session in being pounded but this is as savage and straightforward as Bleeding Through have sounded in some time.
That’s great an’ all, but are there songs to back that up? The short answer is ‘just about’. The desperate intensity of Final Hours and the thrash fuelled one minute and fifty four seconds of Faith In Fire certainly hit some thrilling buttons, but ultimately the album suffers the same problem Bleeding Through had two years ago; it doesn’t really distinguish itself. Admittedly, Dave Nassie has proven a sturdy replacement for Jona Weinhofen in the axeman department since the latter’s departure after Declaration, but since then, there’s no denying that some of the creative spark and identity hasn’t been restored. The subtle nuances, use of different keys and variation of that period in the band’s career hasn’t been carried over into the post-Trustkill days. The Great Fire is very sturdy, heavy and well-composed stuff, and certainly some of the most scathing of the band’s career, but brutality cannot carry the weight of an entire album, and there’s getting less and less to distinguish Bleeding Through from the rest of the pack.