After glimpsing a promo shot for Burn Piano Island, Burn, I was convinced the Blood Brothers were just another gang of screamo pretty boys doling out the latest Converge rehash. Yet after hearing that same record, I was thoroughly slapped in the face by such a brash assumption.
Produced by Ross Robinson (best known for his work with nu-metal apes Limp Bizkit and Slipknot), Burn confounded the metalcore/screamo formula (as well as the band’s previous two records): it was heavy, but it didn’t rely on a gazillion piledriving guitar licks to make its point; it mixed cabaret-like pianos with harmonized choral arrangements and breakneck songwriting; it picked up where At the Drive-In (whose last record, the now legendary Relationship of Command, was also produced by Robinson) and Refused left off, injecting a new, fresh sound into the stale post-hardcore spectrum. The greatest thing Burn accomplished, however, and which Crimes, the Brothers’ fourth full-length builds on, was a perfect ensnarement of ferocity and maturity—of screamo spazz fury and their ever-growing acumen for indelible songwriting.
But unlike metalcore alum Cave In, which similarly experienced a spate of inspiration and growth on Creative Eclipses, and subsequently traded in their adolescence for tightly constructed, ballooning space rock, The Brothers haven’t simply swapped templates; nor have they imploded over the “selling out” question—an insecurity that’s self-destructed many a musician trying to depart from the strictures of hardcore. They have, in fact, accomplished that most consternating task of collective growth at a level pace.
While Crimes’ overpowering elements (vocalist Jordan Blilie’s indecipherable, Geddy Lee-like tenor; the math driven, epileptic nature of the Brothers’ songwriting) are likely to eclipse some of the group’s more subtle progressions, they’re also anchors for ideas that were mere nuggets or non-existent on Burn. There’s more piano-laden carnival rock (“Peacocks Skeleton with Crooked Feathers”, “Live at the Apocalypse Cabaret”, “Wolf Party”), a nearly disco-punk, riff-soaked anthem (“Trash Flavored Trash”), bare-bones, stripped down rock and roll (“Love Rhymes with Hideous Car Wreck”), a Zeppelin-like breakdown in the middle of “the old school hardcore song” (“Beautiful Horses”), a vaguely ironic adaptation of the Hives (“Celebrator”) and a Danzig-style spiritual to close the record (“Devastator!”).
Ultimately, the Brothers’ forays into new styles and a slower pace equal something like a more listenable, more thoughtful, more cohesive version of Burn. There are few bands that manage to progress as firmly and steadily as the Blood Brothers; yet after seven years and four records, there’s no telling what these guys will do next.