Label: Deathwish Inc
It’s safe to say that I was excited over this release. Doomriders’s last album, Darkness Come Alive, is a record that I’ve listened to a lot since it was released, with its mix of punk, metal, and a rock’n’roll feel. It wasn’t a perfect album though – it felt much longer than its 46 minutes, with a few tracks making it feel bloated and sapping momentum. My first listen of Grand Blood had me worrying that similar problems were present once again, but the more I’ve listened to the album, the more I have come to disagree with that initial assessment. It’s a strong album full of charms both immediate and more subtle ones that may take several listens to unearth, but it’s well worth doing so, as this compares to the best work the band has done.
Much like Darkness Come Alive, Grand Blood packs its more immediate tracks at the front half of the album, but whereas the previous album started off with more up-tempo tracks, Grand Blood takes a slightly different route at first. After a short intro track, New Pyramids gets the album going with some high-tempo drumming and swathes of guitar all underpinned by some pretty heavy bass, before Nate’s vocals kick in. It has a dark, brooding atmosphere, and it wasn’t what might be expected from the opening to a Doomriders album to be like, but that’s no bad thing. The surprises continue with Mankind featuring some guitar leads in between the verses and choruses that remind me of the last Converge record, followed by the title track which slows things down a touch with more heavy bass anchoring the song. The impression is of a band expanding upon their sound, taking more risks. It sounds better with repeated listens, and overall these songs form a very strong opening to the album.
Don’t let this create the impression that the band has gone all “prog” or arty, though. Bad Vibes is a comparatively straight-forward rocker of a track that brings to mind Burning Love’s Alien Vs Creditor (and like that track, it’s easy to imagine some rock’n’roll piano being added to the background), racing past in 3 and a half minutes. Dead Friends slows things down again though, and combined with the near-6 minutes of Death In Heat – which reminds me of Blood Avenger from the last album – it initially feels like a mis-step, the track order threatening to sabotage the energy built up thus far. Repeated listens have dispelled this impression as the songs have grown on me, but it was still quite jarring initially.
After this section, the band up the tempo once more whilst still sounding like they’re subtly stretching their artistic wings. We Live In The Shadows features a great melodic guitar lead just before the 3 minute mark, and Gone To Hell features some of the cleanest, most melodic vocals the band have recorded yet as well as some more great melodic guitar – it’s probably the catchiest song on the album. Back Taxes brings Burning Love to mind once more, and is the most obviously aggressive track on the album. Finally, Father Midnight brings the record to a close, slowing the tempo right down; it almost sounds like it could have been written by a doom band. The bass sound is especially heavy, with the Kurt Ballou production being as excellent as ever, as it is across the whole album; the only potential criticism of it is that Nate’s vocals aren’t quite as clear as on Darkness Come alive, but it doesn’t detract from the album.
It might take a few listens to really appreciate it, but Grand Blood is a superb album. Several of the songs initially sounded quite ordinary, but repeated listens have unearthed subtle charms, with each song having something to make it stand out even if it isn’t obvious on the first or second listen. That’s what strikes me as the biggest improvement over previous albums – whereas Darkness Come Alive and their début Black Thunder had a few stand-outs amongst generally strong songs, almost every song here sounds like it could be a stand-out or live favourite, even if it might take some time to realise it. And much like Darkness Come Alive, I can see myself listening to this for a very long time to come.