Sunday, 6 October 2013

Blood Red Water - All the Ills of Mankind (album review)

Cover artwork by Alicia.
Blood Red Water's 'Tales of Addiction and Despair' E.P. from early last year was intense.  It was the perfect title for the effort, with half mumbled / half pleading vocals telling the darkest tales to emerge since the days of Alice in Chains's 'Dirt' album and songs like "Junkhead" and "God Smack".  Musically, it couldn't have been farther away from the legendary album and its habit-forming melodies.  Where Alice in Chains's tales of addiction and despair were dirty, Blood Red Water's were filthy and rotten with none of the glamor behind the stories.  This was uncompromising sludge / doom and genuinely captured the feelings of their debut E.P.'s title.  The tone and feel of the incredible opening track, "Ungod" was almost shocking in its intensity.

The band's new E.P., 'All the Ills of Mankind', retains large quantities of that intensity, but injects it with a glamor all its own, blending their hard-as-nails sludge with some interesting sensibilities.  It's a longer effort, and relatively less challenging sacrificing a portion of tone and feel for a greater emphasis on melody.  For all that, Blood Red Water remains a grimy band, soundwise, and 'All the Ills of Mankind' retains a dull matte finish of sludge which seeps out of the pores of the E.P. like the sweat of desperation.

When I'm speaking about interesting sensibilities, I'm talking about two songs in particular, "Bad Trip in a Toxic Mind" and "The Outstanding Loss", which stand out as the best cuts on the album.  What each of these songs have is an unwavering commitment to groove, and groove at the right (mid-)tempo.  It's something that is introduced on opening track "A Ride in the Funhouse" which plunges listeners back into the madcap world of Blood Red Water effectively and eloquently, but is emphasized to the nth degree on the aforementioned two later tracks.  I loved the song "Ungod" for emotive power and dark atmosphere, these two songs, "Bad Trip" and "Loss" may be the catchiest the band has recorded yet.

The band has also added another new wrinkle to their scheme (sorry, it is football season after all), that in the form of vocalist Michele's renewed commitment to singing more melodically and less to wailing in despair, a tendency shown on 'Tales ...' in tracks like "Avoid the Relpase".  Well even while vocalizing in this way, Michele's performance was manic and erratic creating a terrific sense of mental imbalance which suited the mood of the release.  His performance on 'All the Ills' is as even and steady as a surgeon's hand.  Both styles create a sense of cohesion within their own contexts, with 'All the Ills' being altogether steadier and sturdier in the long run.

And that's the thing to remember, this extended play is terrific from top to bottom, the even quality of the songs make it a steady release and the variation of styles and moods provide it with a sturdiness that holds up well to repeat listens.  The more I listen to this thing, the more I like it.  'All the Ills of Mankind' should probably appeal primarily to sludge fans, but there's enough groove and melody on this thing to appeal to just about anybody on some level or another.

Highlights include: "Bad Trip in a Toxic Mind" and "The Outstanding Loss"

Rating: 5/5

Total Run Time: 28:17

Michele - Vocals
Fiorica - Drums
Volt - Guitar
Gianluca - Bass
Eric - Guitar

From: Venice, Italy

Genre: Doom, Sludge

Reminds me of: Diesel King, Dopethrone, Hyne

Release Date: September 9, 2013

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