|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website: Bloodgood|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 85%|
Every metal and hard rock fan has his or her favorite Bloodgood memories. Mine date to the mid-eighties and being introduced to classic tracks such as “Battle Of The Flesh” and “Anguish And Pain” from the group’s critically acclaimed Metal Missionaries demo (1985). I later had the pleasure of seeing Bloodgood open for Stryper (Soldiers Under Command tour) with its original line-up of vocalist Les Carlson, guitarist David Zaffiro, bassist Michael Bloodgood and drummer J.T. Taylor. Unduly impressed, I purchased the groups just released self-titled debut (1986) and heartily agreed with reviewers of the time that described it as “thinking mans metal” and even “right up there with Stryper”.
One of the things I most appreciate about Bloodgood is how it defies easy style classification, particularly when factoring an eighties Christian metal scene rampant with vocalists inviting comparison to a mainstream counterpart. Not so with Bloodgood in that front man Les Carlson exhibits a high end and soaring but raspy style that cannot be identified with a contemporary from the time- and helps give the group its unique sound in the process.
Musical direction plays every bit as much a role. Bloodgood trends towards a heavier sound rooted in traditional metal, as the aforementioned debut in addition to the follow up efforts Detonation (1987) and Out Of The Darkness (1989) attest. Yet, the group could also compose a ballad with the best of them when recalling “Alone In Suicide” (from Detonation) and lengthy companion ballads “Top Of The Mountain” and “Changing Me” (both Out Of The Darkness). A more commercial aspect also characterized Bloodgood, with Rock In A Hard Place (1988) trending towards melodic metal and All Stand Together (1991) melodic hard rock.
All of these styles and more define the fall of 2013 Bloodgood comeback album Dangerously Close. Yes, a passing of over 20 long years, but the group has returned in top form in presenting the same roster that recorded Out Of The Darkness + 1: Holdovers remain Carlson (vocals) and Michael Bloodgood (bass) with Kevin Whisler handling drums and Paul Jackson guitars. The addition in question is guitarist Oz Fox (Stryper), who joined the band in 2007.
I find a second guitarist to yield a heavier element to the Bloodgood sound. The overall feel to Dangerously Close, as a result, is straightforward metal akin to Out Of The Darkness (which should not surprise when factoring the line-up) with strong hints of Bloodgood and Detonation. The group, however, also blends (in a positive sense) some of the commercial facets to Rock In A Hard Place and All Stand Together, albeit with better low-end presence than the former and more guitar driven than the latter.
Best embodying the traditional metal side to Dangerously Close are “In The Trenches, a joining of aggressive rhythm guitars with bluesy slide guitar, and “Man In The Middle”, delivering big doses of bottom heavy groove with tight guitar harmonies. You will also find a double kick drum power metal romp in “Bread Alone” and the contrastingly near doom-like aesthetics to trudging plodder “Child On Earth”.
Also good are shorter tracks “Run Away”, with its spirited and freely flowing demeanor, and “Pray”, a weighty cruncher upheld by chugging guitars. “Run The Race” maintains the groove driven sentiment but in the more blues based package.
From a commercial standpoint, “Lamb Of God” gives rise to immediately accessible hooks (by far the albums most radio friendly) without backing from the guitar heavy penchant, while “I Will” smoothes things in upholding touches of the ethereal (including use of sitar). “The Word” proves up-tempo all the way with its high-energy proclivities.
My favorite of the three ballads is “I Can Hold On” due to its bluesy and classic rock tinctures joined with edgy rhythm guitars. “Father, Father” takes a similar heading but in the more tempered format. Lone complaint is a slight sameness feel between the two; for the purpose of variety, I would have liked to seen the group deliver a traditional power ballad instead. Three minute acoustic rock piece represents the albums lone skip button (the song fades out a bit early for my tastes without building, although I can see others embracing it).
Les Carlson has not lost anything over the years in terms of range and dynamics. No different from the groups eighties prime, he can still hit a high note with ease or descend into some lower register rumbling. As a matter of fact, it continues to amaze how fresh the vocalists of the various eighties Christian metal bands releasing comeback albums in 2013 sound, including Dale Thompson (Bride), Michael Sweet (Stryper), Jimmy P. Brown II (Deliverance) and Michael Drive (Barren Cross).
Michael Bloodgood continues to anchor the low-end with his dutiful bass lines. Of note is how his bass resonates in the mix, particularly during the albums occasional quieter moments (“Man In The Middle” proves a good example of his abilities). Paul Jackson and Oz Fox play every bit the dominant role guitar wise. As already noted, the presence of a second guitarist lends more depth to Bloodgood (you would not be out of line to suggest Dangerously Close is the groups most consistently heavy). I do not know who handles the soloing on which song and when, but it is ably performed throughout in being up to the stands one would expect from a duo with the qualifications of Jackson and Fox.
Production shines with a thick and weighty low-end and guitars that deliver the needed crunch. More than enough polish presents itself but not to the point of taking away from the bands inherit energy
Song titles such as “Lamb Of God”, “Child On Earth”, “Bread Alone” and “The Word” attest to the upfront nature of the lyrics here. As with past releases, Bloodgood presents its faith in an intelligent and creditable manner in living up to the standards of the already noted “thinking man’s metal” label.
Give credit to Bloodgood for coming back in strong fashion with Dangerously Close following a twenty year hiatus. Any potential missteps by the group - such as heading in a “modern” direction or going commercial to a fault - were wisely avoided. The upshot is Dangerously Close more than holding its own when placed alongside the groups back catalog when factoring the quality in the key areas of songwriting, production and musicianship. I hope Bloodgood continues to remain active and delivers a follow up in the near future.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Lamb Of God” (3:24), “Run Away” (3:28), “Child On Earth” (5:29), “I Will” (3:27), “Bread Alone” (4:09), “Pray”, “I Can Hold On” (4:15), “Run The Race” (4:04), “Father, Father” (4:06), “Man In The Middle” (4:09), “Crush Me” (2:52), “In The Trenches” (5:06), “The Word” (3:22)
Les Carlson - Lead Vocals
Paul Jackson - Guitars
Oz Fox - Guitars
Michael Bloodgood -Bass
Kevin Whisler - Drums