Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Rex Carroll & The Bleed - Take Back A Life
Musical Style: Modern Hard Rock Produced By:
Record Label: Retroactive Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 1997/2011 Artist Website:
Tracks: 10 Rating: 80%
Running Time: 42:09

Rex Carroll & The Bleed - Take Back A Life

Guitarist Rex Carroll went from Whitecross to King James to The Bleed in a few short years.  Whitecross, of course, is his signature group, having recorded five acclaimed melodic metal albums with vocalist Scott Wenzel between the late eighties and early nineties.  Later aligning with a new vocalist in Jimi Bennett, the artist put together King James and released a pair of albums that ranged from the commercial hard rock of the group’s self-titled debut (1994) to the joining of metal and modern elements that is The Fall (1997).  Carroll reinvented himself a third time with vocalist Tim Bushong (Lovewar), the two forming The Bleed and putting out the groove driven and grungy sounds of its first and only album Ouch! (1997).

The Bleed was a particularly promising act but, unfortunately, Ouch! was poorly marketed and soon went out of print and drifted into obscurity.  After falling beneath the radar the past 15 years, the album was re-mastered and re-issued by Retroactive Records in the spring of 2011.  In addition to featuring new artwork, it also was given a new title, Take Back A Life, in addition to being renamed (Rex Carroll & The Bleed) in order to reflect the star power behind it.

What we have in Rex Carroll & The Bleed is nineties alternative hard rock.  Specifically, the group reflects the moodiness and down-tuned flavorings of The Fall era King James but joined with the groove driven presence of Lovewar and swirling backing vocals not unlike prime King’s X.  In between, plenty of Galactic Cowboys style melodic sensibilities can be found along with some of the grungy inspired sounds of Alice In Chains and Stone Temple Pilots.

Now, I do not want to fall victim to oversimplification in terms of style classification because there is a bit more here than meets the eye.  Yes, the album rocks hard in placed, but it is not all about hard rock; it also upholds its share of bluesy and modern moments but either label would not be all inclusive.  So I guess you could say that The Bleed not only does a lot of things but that they do them all very well.  Hence, I can see the group appealing to those with tastes that stray outside the alternative-grunge genres.

As one might imagine, the material here trends towards the mid-tempo.  This is best reflected in heavy hitting pieces such as “Those Shoes”, “Take Back A Life”, “Me, My Orb, And Mine” and “Hose Me Down” in addition to the smoother sounds of the bluesy “Let The Rain Fall Down” and acoustic based “Round The World”.  Both heavier and mellow moments can be found on “Too Late (Time Has Come)” and the two part track “Lies/That’s The Way Life Goes” while “Stay The Same” is the albums lone up-tempo offering.

Carroll, as expected, proves his versatility by adopting his guitar playing to the style of music at hand.  In other words, he lends a complementary dirty and sludgy rhythm guitar sound (the album really hits hard in places), but you will find some lighter touches to his playing as well, reflected in the occasional use of acoustic guitar throughout the project.

The artist, however, takes every opportunity to solo.  Now, this is where that “a bit more than meets the eye” in terms of style classification comes into play in that the project lends a slight (the key word here) eighties feel as a result.  No, you will not find any Whitecross style shredding here, but one cannot help but recognize Carroll’s distinct style of playing either.  So I guess there are two ways to look at things:  1) The Bleed is the best nineties band that dares to solo. 2) Fans of eighties metal would do themselves a favor by checking Take Back A Life out.

Standing out equally well is vocalist Tim Bushong.  Staying mostly in mid-ranged territory, Bushong brings a gravelly but powerful presence that fits well with the nineties based sounds at hand here.  Sometimes reflecting the soul of Doug Pinnick (King’s X) and at others the low-key muscle of Jimi Bennett (King James), he still delivers the same charisma that made Lovewar such a special act.

I cannot comment on specific because I do not own the original, but production is very good with a pronounced low end and crisp and clean separation of instrumentation.

Track By Track

Opener “These Shoes” stands out with its walls of sludgy guitars and every bit as big layered vocal melodies.  Slow, heavy and weighty as all get out, this one hearkens back to the “Seattle sound” and the flannel shirts and unkempt hair that went along with it.

“Love Over All” delivers the lighter touch, heading in a melodic based direction - chorus highlights quite the significant hook - while introducing some lacings of acoustic guitar.  Bushong shines vocally with his gritty and mid-ranged touch.  Lyric snippet:

You’re there in every view that can be seen
All vistas speaking your name
And from the novas to a blade of grass the fabric woven this way
Yeah it’s clearly and graciously
Understood with clues all around

Love over all
With the fullness of all Diety found in you
Love over all
The glory and the splendor it all rings true

“Round The World” starts to an acoustic based opening but soon descends into some churning low-key guitar effects.  When impetus returns, it is for a surprisingly up-tempo chorus.  Carroll steps forward with one of his trademark lead guitar runs. 

“Hose Me Down” is another grungy piece that has mid-nineties written all over it.  Yes, the scratchy vocals and raw guitar sound works to perfection, but it is the angst laden emphasis that puts things over the top.  The “take me away” breakdown at the end of the chorus is pure Galactic Cowboys.  Lyric snippet:

Well it don’t’ seem to matter if things go from bad to worse
Let’s all go shoppin’ we got room for more baggage in the hearse
Got a walking machine that won’t go anywhere
Got a fat-free theology and nobody cares
If ya talk about the truth you’re
Shuffled off with all the other squares

“Let The Rain Fall Down” represents the albums slowest and most bluesy.  Standing out with its emotional proclivity, the song shines with its tasteful joining of the acoustic and electric.  I am almost reminded of The Rex Carroll Band in the process.  Lyric snippet:

Blissfully hear You, reverently fear You
Depraved I am coming unglued
If the world comes down, I’ll be hanging round
For the chance to be still loving You

Carry me down and bury me under the valley where red roses grow
In elysian field, where the sunshine is burning my eyes
So the Truth I will know

The quirkily entitled “Me, My Orb, And Mine” makes a hard rocking statement.  The song opens its first seconds calmly prior to kicking into high gear, giving rise to a pronounced low end and some metal edged guitar riffs that border on the thrash-like in capacity.

“Take Back A Life” maintains the heavier emphasis.  With a pummeling bass line leading the way, the song drifts through its forcefully done verses and rollicking chorus underscored b a knife-edged rhythm guitar.  Carroll contributes the albums best run of edgy lead guitar.

Six minute “Lies”/That’s The Way Life Goes” breaks down into two even parts.  The first, “Lies”, is a gritty rocker characterized by a catchy chorus and some of the albums more energetic moments.  “That’s The Way Love Is”, in contrast, tapers things to a near crawl with its compelling use of acoustic guitar.  Lyric snippet:

There’s a God who loves us all, loves us even when we fall
That’s’ the way life goes
Can it find you unaware, you’re living with the wheat and tare
That’s the way life goes
Silence breaks the awful din, Light exposes, heals the sin
That’s the way life goes
There are choices that we make, and in the end we bear their weight
That’s the way life goes

“Too Late (Time Has Come)” proves an exercise in contrasts.  On one hand, you have slowly moving verses of a near melancholic quality; on the other, a spirited chorus literally brims with life and vitality.  Instrumentally, this one runs the gamut from blazing leads to a swirling cacophony of voices.

“Stay The Same” is up-tempo from the get go, aligning a riveting guitar sound and some dark low-end flavorings to create quite the hard hitting listening experience.  Perhaps it is the groups ever present swirling backing vocals, but of all the albums material this one brings to mind King’s X the most.  Lyric snippet:

In the time it takes to swallow hard
I could be the man I need to be
Whatever changes must be made
Just don’t let me stay, don’t let me stay the same

I don’t understand all the mysteries
But there is way more truth than I can take
Whatever changes must be made
Just don’t let me stay, don’t let me stay the same

If you miss the nineties hard rock scene then by all means give Take Back A Life the chance it deserves. Of course, with Rex Carroll involved, those into eighties metal should find a lot to like here as well.  The trademark charisma of Tim Bushong only adds to the albums appeal.

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “These Shoes” (3:35), “Love Over All” (5:03), “Round The World” (3:29), “Hose Me Down” (3:48), “Let The Rain Fall Down” (4:02), “Me, My Orb, And Mine” (4:05), “Take Back A Life” (3:44), “Lies/”That’s The Way Life Goes” (5:45), “Too Late (Time Has Come)” (3:40), “Stay The Same” (4:53)

Tim Bushong – Lead Vocals
Rex Carroll - Guitars


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