|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Terry Shelton|
|Record Label: Intense/Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1989/2015||Artist Website: Bloodgood|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 40:55|
There is no question that Out Of The Darkness, the Intense Records fourth full-length Bloodgood album from 1989, represents a heavier return to form for the revered Seattle, Washington based act. To accurately access Out Of The Darkness one must first grasp the context of its release subsequent to 1988’s Rock In A Hard Place, which found Bloodgood abandoning the traditional metal of its first two albums, Bloodgood (1986) and Detonation (1987), for a lighter coalescing of melodic metal and commercial hard rock. The move to a more accessible direction proved successful overall, with Bloodgood adding another dimension to its already well-rounded sound and expanding upon its extensive fan base in the process. Critics were won over as well, with Rock In A Hard Place receiving positive reviews from fanzines of the time such as Heaven’s Metal and Take A Stand, while the fall of 2015 Retroactive Records re-issue of the album garnered a favorable (75%) Angelic Warlord review.
If like me you embraced Rock In A Hard Place as a creative change of pace but also could not help but long for the more aggressive and guitar driven ways of Bloodgood’s past. Hence, Out Of The Darkness proved the perfect album at the perfect time in meeting fan expectations for a heavier sound in the same manner as Stryper when it transitioned from the highly polished In God We Trust (1988) to the rawer Against The Law (1990). A return to a heavier heading, however, did not come without changes to the Bloodgood line-up: exit original guitarist David Zaffiro and Detonation and Rock In A Hard Place drummer Mark Welling and enter their replacements Paul Jackson and Kevin Whisler on guitars and drums, respectively.
Whisler joined Bloodgood following a stint with Watchmen in which he contributed his timekeeping abilities to the groups well known 1989 melodic hard rock and AOR debut Generation. It would be fair to say Whisler brings a heavier footed and harder hitting style when placed alongside that of the more technical and finesse minded Welling. Accept this as neutral observation and not a critique of Welling, of whom I remain a fan of his signature style to this day.
Jackson has been associated with Bloodgood since the group’s inception, noting how he helped co-write such classic tracks as “Crucify”, “Demon On The Run” and “Seven”. Consider his joining the group as a natural transition in this regard. In comparison to Zaffiro, Jackson also provides a heavier edge with playing on the starker and more resolute side of things. Again, do not take this as critique in light of how the stronger melodic sensibilities to Zaffiro played a crucial role in the formative Bloodgood years.
It would not be a stretch to suggest that Whisler and Jackson helped push Bloodgood towards again taking on a heavier sound. Albums title track upholds this, with its big drum soloing opening declaring the immediate and very powerful presence of Whisler. “Out Of The Darkness” proceeds to move forward as a decisive slab of freight train metal, ardent with its impassioned riff action but also not forsaking melody as can be found in its austere refrain.
“Hey! You” also realizes the heavier aspect to Bloodgood, delivering equal parts rumbling low-end groove and bluesy guitar driven tinctures in abundance. Michael Bloodgood’s palpitating bass stands out accordingly, particularly for the curtly done “Hey! Hey you!” refrain. The gist is an early Van Halen meets old school Guardian vibe that cannot help but force you to hit the repeat button.
“Mad Dog World” hits every bit hard. Starting appropriately to a backdrop of barking dogs, the song decelerates to a course mid-paced heading as Jackson puts on a clinic with his cutting edge guitar riffs (that pulsate in and out of the mix) and blistering lead guitar (which proves more than a match for the capable Zaffiro). A similar bluesy and low-end groove that defined “Hey! You” makes every bit the pronounced statement here.
Each of the three previous Bloodgood albums included a choice speed metal type barnburner, including “Black Snake” (Bloodgood), “Crucify” (Detonation) and “Do Or Die” (RIAHP). Said piece here is “New Age Illusion”, albums shortest at three and a half minutes but also most relentless with intense guitars carrying its distance and forcefully driven chorus exclaiming “Jesus, call on Jesus!. Look what He’s done for Me!”
Many of the more melodic aspects to Rock In A Hard Place carry over onto Out Of The Darkness. This manifests on “Let My People Go”, as front to back impenetrable guitar harmonies stand alongside a hook driven chorus and verses that cut and fray with the best of them. Likewise, “America” draws upon classy melodic metal with its emphasis on smooth but astringent accessibility and anointed emotional overtures. Lending to the moving scene is the acapella vocal harmony driven opening with lyrics from “America The Beautiful”.
Out Of The Darkness also features a pair of first-rate ballads in “Top Of The Mountain” and “Changing Me” each in the six and a half minute range. Now, long-winded ballads often try my patience and commonly force me to hit the skip button, with Shadow Gallery being one of a very select few capable of penning ballads of such length to hold my attention. With the two in question, Bloodgood joins said ranks from how each proves exquisitely composed in upholding melody and time signatures in just the right amounts to hold up under repeat play.
“Top Of The Mountain” is the heavier of the two, reflective as acoustic guitars and distant keyboards hold sway over its verses but also worshipful as impermeable rhythm guitars cut in to back the towering refrain. Jackson again steps forward with several stretches of moving lead guitar. “Changing Me” takes the lighter tone. More emotional and laid back in resolve, the song also highlights an acoustic basis but intermingled with orchestration and lighter rhythm guitars for the instrumental moments. Inherit to the pair are the emotional qualities to Les Carlsen, who with his signature high end but raspy vocal style makes him one of the more unique performers within the hard music community.
Lone track to challenge me is “Its Alright”, which is, well ‘all right’ in that while not skip button worthy I rate a notch below rest of the albums material. The problem is that as a mid-paced hard rocker it meshes with neither the up-tempo metal cuts nor the slower ballads in ultimately struggling to find its identity within the track listing. If Bloodgood had replaced it with two more on the same level as the other eight they would have a classic on their hands.
Unlike RIAHP, Out Of The Darkness does not come with any glaring production flaws, with the possible exception a touch of polish a professional mastering job might lend. Enter the fall of 2015 Retroactive Records re-issue with fantastic re-mastering that adds that polished element in question: low-end now comes across much more pronounced (you can literally feel Michael Bloodgood’s bass permeating the mix) while rhythm guitars deliver elevated edge and bite (not to mention guitar leads coming across cleaner).
The eye catching cover art to the Retroactive re-issue proves an upgraded take on the original, which I found on the plain side of things. More time and thought, on the other hand, could have gone into the Retroactive 4-panel digi-pak. Why not make it a 6-panel digi-pak instead and include lyrics and detailed liner notes?
On Out Of The Darkness, Bloodgood maintains its well-deserved reputation for creating ‘thinking man’s metal’ from its intelligent lyrics approach. “Top Of The Mountain” deals with the power and necessity of prayer in this capacity:
I remember when you came knocking at my door
I wouldn't let you in
I kept hiding but you kept trying
And now my life is so much more
I will climb to the top of the mountain on my knees
Just to be with you
I will ride on the wings of the wind
'Cause I believe, I believe in You
As its title suggests, “New Age Illusion” exposes the lies of the New Age Movement:
Straight from Hell, tongue of deception
With their words mystify they are breeding a lie
To deceive you
Dancers dream, new age illusion
'Cause it's only a whim you'll be out on a limb
Can't look back
Don't let those demons haunt you, they'll run if you pray
Don't let this witchcraft blind, turn you away
“Out Of The Darkness” encourages the believer in times of trial:
My God how long will you forget me
O Lord I need to see your face
The enemy has come against me
He laughs at me, prepared to slay
Yet I will trust in You, Lord, my heart will sing
I'll wait to hear your voice God, you'll hear me scream
Out of darkness into the light
See the demons flee
Out of darkness into the light
Jesus, set me free
The group makes a statement of faith on “Changing Me”:
Turn on light in the dark, I can't see
I can't taste what I'm eating
The earth is being tread upon and bled upon
Blood dripping to the sea
He holds the world in His hand
He took the keys and showed us His plan
He is the One who brought me down to my knees
Throughout the years, Out Of The Darkness represents the first album I pull off the shelf when in the mood for Bloodgood. Yes, I rate Detonation slightly higher (90%) but that is mostly due to historic significance (when factoring the ‘rock opera’ of “Crucified” and “Messiah”) in that the Out Of The Darkness material (in my opinion) has done the better job holding up under the test of time. The album ultimately boils down to simmering straight on metal cuts and classic six-minute ballads that form a near perfect union that cannot help but leave you returning time-and-again. Long-term Bloodgood fans (not to mention those into the traditional and melodic metal side of things) deserve to benefit from the improved re-mastering to the Retroactive re-issue.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Out of the Darkness" (3:43), "Let My People Go" (4:09), "America" (4:04), "It's Alright" (3:44), "Top Of the Mountain" (6:30), "Hey! You" (4:04), "Mad Do World" (4:24), "Changing Me" (6:38), "New Age Illusion" (3:18)
Les Carlson - Lead Vocals
Paul Jackson - Guitars
Michael Bloodgood - Bass
Kevin Whistler - Drums