The band name Bloody Knives carries the weight of a heavy metal, hardcore punk band’s alias.
But the title is deceiving: Artistically choosing to put aside the stereotypical sound of a screamo band, Bloody Knives delivers a surprisingly psychedelic sound instead of the heavy-metal bloodbath a listener would expect.
Think distorted guitars, ambient effects, static noise and soft vocal crescendos.
The shoegaze band’s first full-length album Blood is anything but nonconfrontational.
The band brings forth an onslaught of synths and instruments; the former contributes bass, vocals, guitar and keys, and the latter bangs on drums, crafts ambient noise and programs tracks. With so many sounds, it is easy to get lost in Blood’s tracks.
The album opens with “Lesson,” a song in which the first 15 seconds radiates visceral and aggressive music — drums pounding, guitar riffs distorting and eerie synths creeping.
But instead of erupting into a massive hardcore vocal attack in the first verse, the melodic vocals emerge subtly, gliding beneath the chaos of the in-your-face production.
With the opening track, Bloody Knives’ intensely unique sound begins to unravel and take form. The mix of heavy instrumentation, noise and synthesizers bring to mind noise-pop band Sleigh Bells’ quirky anthemic tunes — but Bloody Knives has more to prove.
A notch down from heavy metal, Blood retains the savagely aggressive stylings of metal music but transposes the screaming vocals of metal with ambient noise.
In essence, the music is very much an auditory bombardment — abstract and intriguing, yet violent and malicious.
This is the kind of music that could serve as a score to Patrick Bateman’s mind a la American Psycho or the thoughts of Kevin Bacon’s John Doe in Se7en.
Though the massive sounds of Blood play an important role in the way the album delivers itself to the listener, the softer tones of Bloody Knives’ production makes the band’s heavy synth-rock palatable.
Take the vocals on “Undecided,” arguably one of the strongest cuts off of the record.
Though static noise and forceful riffs create the undertone of the track, the transcendent electric guitar feedback and Maddox’s airy vocals brilliantly juxtapose saccharine reveries against gruesome nightmares.
There’s an interesting mix here, paralleling Alexis Krauss’ vocal stylings on almost every Sleigh Bells track. But Maddox’s voice sounds solemn and creepy where Krauss exudes energy and pep.
Take Bloody Knives as the doped out cousin of Sleigh Bells’ pristinely calculated tunes.
The album’s strongest points come from its moments of unexpected beauty when Maddox and McCown step outside of the box to tell stories through disjointed sounds.
But Blood often comes down hard and the carnal music can be hard to swallow.
Tracks such as “Not Now” and “Death Blessing” let the band’s vision run out of control.
The production manifests insanity and the tracks can be troubling to listen to — not in the disturbing, introspective feeling the guys were presumably going for, but in a mess of clipping tracks and ear-shattering bedlam.
In fact, the album as a whole sits so full of commotion and, at times, pretentiousness that it can be impossible to listen to Blood all the way through without incurring a massive static-induced headache.
This musical ruckus isn’t inherently bad, per se, but it’s not going to get the trio anywhere any time soon.
Though it may not be artistically appetizing for an indie band like Bloody Knives, the duo should draw inspiration from similar acts such as Sleigh Bells and craft an even balance of noise and pop that is actually possible to market.
Blood is certainly not commercial, and the sounds of “Lessons” and “Death Blessing” are so powerful and intimidating that the band will have a hard time attracting fans who are not willing to take a second listen.
It’s a shame considering the fact that once the intitial shock of the music fades away, listeners can finally connect with the album.
In the end, Blood can be criticized for its technical faults and the sometimes mismatched marriage of noise and melody, but this whirlwind of noise is over before you know it.
And at only 28 minutes long, Blood surely captures the attention of anyone who’s interested in the subtleties of production and experimental auditory experiences.