Bleeth Is A “Harbinger” of Quickly Approaching Doom (Review)
Bleeth’s newest album, the six-track, seventeen-minutes long Harbinger, plays impressively fast and loose with our understanding of genre. Though it takes cues from sludge and post metal, the six-track record never quite settles on either. It exists in a liminal zone between the two - free of post metal’s atmospherics but also tighter and chillier than most sludge. Its bludgeoning riffs and bellowed vocals find a sweet spot of pressure-cooked austerity, generating expertly realised tension via the minimalist instrumentation.
A rising act in contemporary Miami’s intriguing metal scene, Bleeth are closer in tone to Floridian stalwarts Torche and Floor than many of Bleeth’s murkier and more feral peers. They aren’t ‘doom pop’, as Torche so brilliantly describe themselves, however their angular, wrong-footed approach to songcraft and mood is similarly idiosyncratic and playful. Harbinger is defined by its short, succinct songs, nervous energy and steely, off-kilter tone. Though more anxious than the major-key joy of Torche and Floor, Bleeth’s brand of dense riffs, subtly-intricate grooves and hints of dry humour shares some clear strands of their DNA.
This askew tone is Harbinger’s most notable feature. There’s an eeriness to these six tracks that manifests a profound sense of uncertainty, a strange tension that matches the muscular, visceral riffing. Lauren Palma’s echoing vocals on the closing moments of “Convenient Drowning” are genuinely captivating, yet also ethereally spooky. The pick-scraped middle of “Skin Of Your Teeth” has a similar effect - it’s engagingly singular, yet decidedly unnerving. Bleeth are highly adept at turning small moments like these into memorable ones, which is vital when crafting a work as short and austere as Harbinger.
Across its fleeting runtime, the album conveys a mood of intense frustration. “Pendulum” huffs and puffs, traversing quiet, restrained lulls before exploding from a well of expertly realised suspense. The sluggish, crawling “Initiation” bemoans “another day where nothing seems right”. It gradually rises through the gears, towards a chaotic ending that snaps and unleashes swathes of pent-up aggression. This taut musical language matches Harbinger’s lyrical focus, which relentlessly despairs at the state of modern society. Their venomous scorn is executed with acerbic aplomb, attacking the political liars of “False Prophets” with their “egos all time high”, to those watching the world “who never seem to care” on “Dystopia For Dessert”.
Harbinger is a scornful, slightly cold album, but understandably so. Its frustrations are relatable and palpable, giving it a layer of humanity in spite of its tightly-wound aggression and frosty exterior. Bleeth’s post/doom metal hybrid is impressively singular, which, in a generic landscape teeming with so many derivative acts, is commendable. They smartly tilt the conventions of these genres, crafting a work that’s tight, brief and remarkably pointed in its venom and spite. Harbinger is a muscular, calculated stab of tension-fueled hostility, and promises great things to come from this most pissed-off of power trios.
Harbinger released today, May 28th via Seeing Red Records.