March 19, 2018 Blessthefall – Hard Feelings (Album Review)
If you are not on-board, no hard feelings, but Blessthefall are still prepared to rise to new heights with their sixth studio release, Hard Feelings, which arrives this Friday, March 23, 2018, thanks to Rise Records.
Blessthefall have survived quite a few of the ups and downs of the music business. Formed in 2004 in Scottsdale, Arizona, Blessthefall (who are also known under the stylization of blessthefall) have seen their fair share of line-up shake-ups – perhaps most notably with the departure of original Lead Vocalist Craig Mabbitt (now of Escape the Fate). They soldiered onward and found a voice in the superbly-talented, congenial Beau Bokan, and have gone on to release five albums throughout the past fourteen years – ranging from 2007’s His Last Walk to 2015’s To Those Left Behind. Originally known as a Christian Metalcore outfit, the band have made it abundantly clear that they wish to evolve onward from this pigeon-holed billing.
Known for their raucous live shows and having toured the world a zillion times over, the boys have shared stages with everyone from the likes of Alesana, Escape the Fate, All That Remains, From First to Last, Silverstein, August Burns Red, and Motionless In White. They recently wrapped up a tour with Of Mice & Men, Fire From The Gods, and Cane Hill, and are, of course, no strangers to that punk rock summer camp thing called Warped Tour. Blessthefall have paid their dues on the road, for sure!
With their Rise Records’ debut, Blessthefall – Vocalist/Keyboardist Bokan, Guitarists Eric Lambert and Elliott Gruenberg, Bassist/Vocalist Jared Warth, and Drummer Matt Traynor – present their sixth full-length studio offering, the ten-track Hard Feelings. Produced by Tyler Smyth of dangerkids, with additional production from both Matt Good (Asking Alexandria, The Word Alive) of From First to Last and Grammy Award-nominated Howard Benson (My Chemical Romance, Halestorm), this is a collection that is everything fans have come to expect from the Arizonans, though a pinch more streamlined; in other words, kids, this is not To Those Left Behind 2.0.
Hard Feelings kicks off with atmospheric tension that builds into the explosion of the ironically-titled “Wishful Sinking,” where Djenty bass-lines collide with Bokan’s angelic clean vocals that contrast triumphantly with Warth’s dirty growls; creating a solitary track that is a solid representation of the album as a whole. With some delicious synths to kick-off the journey, “Find Yourself” promises to chew off its own afflictions, despite an addictive, poisonous love for the deadly and disastrous.
Without pausing for breath, Blessthefall then tackle the expedient march of “Melodramatic,” a raging battle between Bokan’s angel and Warth’s devil, a dramatic promise of personal rage. This leads to “Feeling Low,” a meandering, glittering, yet slowed approach to feeling down that sounds quite optimistic. Next, Warth steps front-and-center to inject some truly vicious grit into “Cutthroat,” a whirligig of stream-lined rage.
The dichotomy present in “I’m Over Being Under(rated)” questions why we hold on just to let go, raise ourselves up merely to fall; celebrating the lack of forgiveness in our unforgetting hearts. This moves the boys into the bittersweet kiss of “Sleepless In Phoenix,” a bout of lyrical poetry, before they explode yet again into “Keep Me Close,” chock-full of scaling, destructive guitar finger-work.
Ultimately, the downtempo, biting melancholy of “Sakura Blues” presents some soaring atmospherics that make way for the album’s denouement. An ode to giving it all up to chase a musical dream, “Welcome Home” weaves Arena Rock guitars into a fully upbeat, triumphant sound. Ending on an adorable note, a little girl (presumably Bokan’s daughter) tenderly coos the key-line: “It’s not living if I’m not living with you.” You cannot help but smile despite Hard Feelings coming to its grand finale!
On Hard Feelings, Blessthefall offer up a bevy of insightful and yet embittered tracks, promising that though life is good it can always be better. They play with words and sounds, weave infectious melodies, and continue to present the delicious battle of good and evil that are Bokan and Warth. Truthfully, while it might not be forging any brilliant new pathways for the band, Hard Feelings feels good on the ears and what more can a fan ask for? For these reasons, CrypticRock give Blessthefall’s Hard Feelings 4 of 5 stars.