It might have come out a year ago, but that won't stop us from taking a look at one of 2006's better metalcore releases.
It's a formula that kids under the age of 16 fall head over heels for, and sends many older metal fans sprinting towards the exits: song starts off with an unoriginal yet spirited melodic death riff, singer enters spewing lyrics about how some evil bitch broke his bleeding heart in a scream that sounds halfway between expectoration and regurgitation, singer then does an about-face and sings in a voice of a sullen little boy (showing that under that toughness lies a nice, sensitive young man), band downshifts into a boring, one-note palm-muted breakdown, lather, rinse, repeat. So overdone has the metalcore formula become, that it's reduced what was a rather refreshing blend of mid-'90s Scandinavian death metal and American hardcore five years ago to an insufferable musical form, spawning dozens upon dozens of copycat bands. It's gotten to the point now that many of the younger metalcore acts clearly have no idea how this style of music originated, and nor do they have the creativity to bring something new to the stale sound.
But the children still adore metalcore, and savvy record labels like Trustkill, Victory, and Ferret have wisely tapped into this money-hemorrhaging market, flooding the scene with new sound-alikes every year. The longer this fad has gone on, however, the clearer the separation has been between the contenders and many, many pretenders, and for about every five useless acts, we get one band that at the very least shows some potential of outlasting the fad. Orange County's Bleeding Through is one such band; with four albums behind them, they're greybeards by metalcore standards, and despite the fact their songwriting has never strayed far from the aforementioned template, they continue to show impressive growth, taking baby steps toward a sound they can eventually call their own.
The Truth certainly doesn't get off to a strong start, as it threatens to quickly sink to levels of self-parody, thanks to the painfully rote intro of "For Love and Failing", which has vocalist Brandan Schiepatti sounding like a banal 13-year-old instead of a 26-year-old artist: "I don't give a fuck... I'm the sheep who lost his way!" In fact, Schiepatti's lyrical shortcomings veer perilously close to ridiculous during the entire 43-minute album, which is peppered with preposterous pubescent bon mots that would induce dry heaves if they weren't so darn funny: "Today I hate myself!"... "Now your hands are filthy with narcissistic identities!"... "I'm the man without a soul."
Mercifully, the album avoids catastrophe, thanks in large part to the rest of the band, as well as producer Rob Caggiano, who creates a robust, yet taut sound, complete with surprisingly effective vocal and instrumental hooks. Guitarists Brian Leppke and Scott Danough effectively alternate from slick dual harmonies, galloping riffs, and punishing hardcore, best exemplified on the rampaging, multifaceted "Tragedy of Empty", while Schiepatti does redeem himself thanks to his authoritative holler and his strong "clean" singing.
The biggest reason for the album's success, though, is primarily the presence of keyboardist Marta Peterson. Much more than just a pretty face (the teenage boys, not to mention the glossy metal magazines, adore her), her synthesizer work brings a desperately-needed new dimension to metalcore, her smooth chords and melodies contributing a decidedly black metal touch to the compositions. Her cascading notes add an ornate feel to the otherwise rote "Love in Slow Motion", while on the excellent "Kill to Believe", Peterson first adds subtle chords underneath the crunching verses, and then tosses in some fantastic arpeggiated notes during the spirited chorus. Even the ballad "Line in the Sand", which is essentially little more than Hinder-style hokum, is made palatable solely by the new wave-tinged keys which dominate the chorus. The overall effect is not unlike having a good female singer; Peterson brings a very welcome feminine perspective to the sausage fest, driven home on the instrumental title track which closes the album, the song dominated by her stately synths.
If there's one song that shows us that Bleeding Through might be ready to get past the metalcore formula, it's "Dearly Demented" and the mid-tempo "Streets", both of which are enhanced greatly by choruses that veer more towards goth influences. Schiepatti has to tone down those "woe is me" themes (even the most sullen tennager can only stomach so much self-loathing from a band), and metalcore's expiration date continues to draw near (some will tell you we've gone long past it), but if this band can keep improving like they are with each album, they could very well still be around when metalcore fans grow up and wonder why on earth they listened to As I Lay Dying in the first place.