Bloodshot Dawn Shamble Back to Life on “Reanimation”

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Seeing a band you love break up sucks. Seeing them come back with an entirely new lineup is an iffy thing, oftentimes sounding either like a pale imitation of what came before or completely different from the sound that drew you in to begin with. It wasn’t too long ago that Bloodshot Dawn met the same fate as Vektor, but I have been cautiously optimistic about their quick recovery and turnaround on new material. I’ve spent some time with their newest, Reanimation, and I have some thoughts.

Mechanically speaking, each of the new members are more than competent. James Stewart of Vader has taken over behind the kit and brings his characteristically intense style to bear. Bassist Giacomo Gastaldi and second guitarist/vocalist Morgan Reid might not carry the same name recognition, but their performances are equally impressive. Giacomo’s bass lines groove and shred where appropriate, and Morgan brings some Jeff Loomis-style soloing into the fold, as well as some low-end vocals that were generally lacking in their previous work. Each member gets plenty of time to shine, and there’s no question that they’re good at what they do.

For those familiar with the band, Reanimation is stylistically closer to the self-titled than Demons; it’s darker, with less of that triumphant feeling to it that was so prevalent on the last one. For everyone else, Bloodshot Dawn plays a fast, aggressive style of melodeath that borders on tech death, but never crosses completely over to their territory. Their compositions can be complex, but they focus more on establishing atmosphere or groove; technique is always secondary. You’ll get a lot of tremolo picking and blastbeats, some complex grooves, and finger-breaking leads and solos. They play around a little bit with progressive song structure in the middle of the album (“Soul Affliction” is a standout track because of it), but they don’t go very deep with it for the most part. This is a band that’s more about having fun with their music than breaking boundaries.

Unfortunately, the fun factor is this album’s biggest misstep, specifically on the first few songs. They lean too heavily on straightforward Phrygian riffing early on (your typical “nasty” scale), with a couple breakdowns that don’t really go anywhere and some tremolo parts that overstay their welcome. Per Nilsson’s production adds a noticeable Scar Symmetry flavor to some parts, which would be cool if it didn’t feel so out of place. “Survival Evolved” suffers the worst of it, and the chorus of “Graviton Nightmare” mars an otherwise great song. It’s great when it works, but it’s atrocious when it doesn’t.

Fortunately, it picks up not too long into the album. “Upon the Throne of Fear” is a monster of a tune sounds nothing like anything the band has done before, the driving “Shackled” is sure to get your head moving (and has some excellent lead guitar), and “Controlled Consciousness” has a lot of cool guitar interplay. “Battle for the Omniverse” is as intense as it sounds and is easily one of the best songs in the band’s catalog, and the one-two punch of “DNA Reacquisition” and the title track bring the album to a satisfying end.

And yet despite all that, I felt like I was banging my head against the wall every time I hit play at the start. It took me a multitude of listens to figure out why, and it really is just that those first three songs kill the album’s momentum before it even gets the chance to get moving. The high points here are really high, but those first 15 minutes are just a slog. If you’ve already listened to it and are having a hard time getting into it, start with “Upon the Throne of Fear;” I can almost guarantee your opinion will turn.

It’s unfortunate that three songs almost ruin the experience, because everything else is exactly as it needs to be. The album sounds good (you can hear the bass this time!), the performances are excellent, and the vast majority of the songwriting is good. Is it perfect? No. Is it worth a listen? Absolutely. At this point in time, Bloodshot Dawn really does feel like a paragon brought back from the dead; they stumble a little and have some kinks to work out, but they feel like they’re on the road to something greater. For that, I give Reanimation:

3.5 out ov 5 Flaming Toilets of Hell

Reanimation is out now, available from the band’s online store and through Hostile Media on Bandcamp. You can follow Bloodshot Dawn on Facebook and check out all their prior releases on Bandcamp.

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