Bloodletter released their debut LP earlier this year, and it does not disappoint. Their take on the established melodic thrash subgenre emanates a fresh vibe and both successfully appeals to experienced metalheads while still being easily palatable for newcomers to the genre.
Hailing from Chicago, Bloodletter is a four-piece group that was formed in the early 2010s. Although taking a relatively lengthy time to release their debut album, the band has produced three EPs and two demos so far in order to test the waters before making their big splash into the scene. Under the Dark Mark features a fluid mix of subgenres and pinpointing the release’s style is fairly difficult as the record is relatively diverse.
To describe their music, the album’s instrumentation features a prominent melodic thrash approach to the likes of Skeletonwitch and Kreator’s newest releases. With that being said, the album’s fast and high-pitched guitar melodies give off a vibe that hints more to the black subgenre of metal. Over the instrumentational chaos, vocalist Peter Carpelli approaches the record with a more straightforward and urgent style as he barks out lyrics. The vocal performance echoes back to the rough and angsty style found on many old-school thrash records from the ’80s.
The release itself runs for just under 30 minutes and includes 10 tracks. The songs themselves are blistering and short but pack a punch, hence the high song to record length ratio. Let’s dive into some of the release’s most prominent tracks to get a more in-depth look at what Bloodletter’s debut release has to offer.
March to the End
This track is the first full song on the record, and it is also the release’s featured song on Bandcamp. This is for good reason, as it presents the listener with a great taste of what will follow. The song opens with blazing speed, and really helps set the tone for the rest of the album. Already within the first 30 seconds the track offers a fast-paced thrash section coupled with a short lead guitar solo. This intro truly packs a punch and acts as a warning for any uninitiated who happen to play this record, as the release goes full-throttle for its entirety.
The vocals break through the noise very early and manage to offer a sense of fullness to the quartet’s output. The tune follows to offer excellent instrumentation and vocal deliveries. One thing that immediately shows is the group’s ability to proficiently match vocal inclusions with underlying musical elements. The instrumentational qualities, especially during the slower moments on the record, really mesh well with the vocals when they are present. This is definitely one of the most redeemable qualities of the release.
“Possession” is a song on the album that has promise but falls flat in some areas due to a poor song structure. While the track is fairly diverse in terms of instrumental inclusion and it possesses all of the other positive aspects mentioned above, the short melodic intro does not do the song justice in the way it was executed. Following the intro, the group breaks into the track at blistering speed with the guitars, drums, and vocals all played at full force in sudden development. While this type of song beginning has been done before in a successful manner, I can’t help but feel like the transition feels too sudden and doesn’t come off well musically.
That same melodic intro hook does come back throughout the song and is implemented in a proficient manner, however. That section is repeated and included a few more times to the listener’s desire due to timely execution and proper inclusion. Overall, “Possession” does eventually come full circle and successfully manages to push away any potential retributions cited above because it is generally a good track; the listener’s introduction to the piece is simply too abrupt. With that being said, this is one of the only individual shortcomings of the record and if anything, the overall solidity of the release alludes to the fact that the group has the capability to wash out any of these potential compositional hinderances within future efforts.
I also believe that the record partially suffers from the “anthem” syndrome, which occurs when lyrical content is centered around vaguely general themes of, for example, uprising and strength which can be perceived as simple and somewhat lazy.
There is nothing inherently wrong with these types of tracks, and their inclusion can even give off a youthful energetic quality, but they don’t couple well with Bloodletter’s technically-driven style of instrumentation. While there aren’t any songs that directly offend this personal issue of mine, I feel as if some tracks like “March to the End” and “Rise and Fight Again” suffer from a lyrical vagueness that pulls away from the impact of the record. This citation is even further emphasized when these tracks are compared to ones like “Coimetromania” and “Under the Dark Mark” which offer more thoughtful and radical lyrical basis.
With that being said, this lyrical depth found throughout the record is one of its highlights for me. Starting with the cover art and album name, “Under the Dark Mark” is, presumably, a reference to Bathory’s 1987 album Under the Sign of the Dark Mark. Also, the track “Coimetromania” describes the tale of a protagonist fascinated with death and particularly graveyards which is the very definition of “Coimetromania”. Efforts like this that manage to highlight potential social issues (depending on how you interpret the track) through the use of lesser-known terms while delivering a followable story hit the hardest in my opinion. I pulled something away from this song, that being an excellent narrative and the knowledge of what coimetromania means. I want to be able to develop as an individual when consuming a record, and this track does it for me.
These are the single two negative sides of the record for me, and they are of course ignorable in comparison to the lengthy list of great things I have to say about the release, which have been discussed above. With every listen, I found myself increasingly enjoying the record and I feel as if it has really grown on me, which I cannot say about very many releases in my catalogue. The overall solidity of the release really drives it forward and I am very excited for what material is in store within Bloodletter’s future.
While the above content may lean more towards the negative aspects of the release they are shadowed by the glaring positives and strengths of the album. The record’s instrumentation is top-notch and the vocalist’s raspy and urgent delivery fits very well with the former. The group has also demonstrated their ability to write simultaneously catchy but brutal tracks that stay with the listener. The positives, especially considering that this is Bloodletter’s debut LP, show that the smaller negatives on the release will be erased from further content as a result of the band’s gained experience and already strong songwriting capabilities. The group is currently playing some one-off shows around the Chicago area, so make sure to catch them live if the opportunity fits.