Dear Chester, I only realised a few days ago that it’s nearly been a year …
Bleeding Gods Kick Off 2018 With A Hercules Themed Concept Record. Another year, another time to speculate on where on earth contemporary metal could possibly go.
2017 was a game-changer in this regard, with a plethora of young, youthful bands rearing their fearsome heads and gifting us with hardcore/death metal crossover (Code Orange’s Forever), pop fused prog reminiscent of the 60’s (Steven Wilson’s To The Bone), and the continued relentless progress of black metal, seemingly resurrected from the 90’s (Wolves In The Throne Room’s Thrice Woven).
After such a fearsome year, it was with genuine anticipation that I sat down to spin Dodekathlon, the major label debut from Germanic blackened death metallers Bleeding God’s. With a concept rooted in the legendary 12 labours of Hercules, with each labour represented by a new track, the thematic framework of the album is impressive; a similarly sophisticated motif ran through the group’s debut Shepherd Of Souls, which touched upon the plight of the Mayan civilisation.
Despite such a unique idea tying the album together however, Dodekathlon has the same Achillies Heel (different myth I know, but we have to keep the Cretian magic alive) as a majority of the more forgettable 2017 releases on major labels. The musicianship is good, nay fantastic in the case of the Hydra retelling of Multiple Decapitation, the vocals are brutal and the drive is clearly there, but Dodekathlon fails to add anything new or different to the void.
Such a critique may seem harsh given the thrashing fury of Beloved By Artemis or cinematic bleakness of From Feast To Beast (with a little help from ex-Cradle Of Filth keys player Martin Powell), but a listen through Dodekathlon makes it all to easy to spot the likes of Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir & Slayer in the larger than life sound.
Indeed, the opening strains of Inhuman Humiliation or thundering kicks of Birds Of Hate sound like direct cuts from The Satanist or South Of Heaven, which is by no means a bad thing. The metal is heavy, loud and dark all throughout Dodekathlon, with blast beats, guitar solos and crushing slams spattered throughout the LP. Guitarist Rutger van Noordenburg even shows off his classical chops in the ethereal Tyrannical Blood, offering respite from the thunderous assault.
However, despite the contrast of sounds, musicianship and songwriting, Bleeding God’s don’t commit themselves musically enough to the concept of the record to produce a work that captures the listener and inspires them to investigate the story for themselves. Rather, Dodekathlon sounds like a run of the mill, albeit slightly more cinematic label debut.
While the likes of Tripled Anger and Hound Of Hell will no doubt please the legions across the muddy festival fields of the Balkans in the months to come, Dodekathlon doesn’t take the same creative risks as many of its preceding releases from last year, a move which will no doubt be a relief to some, but also a frustration to many.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Beloved By Artemis, Birds Of Hate, Seeds Of Distrust
STICK THIS NEXT TO: Behemoth, Dimmu Borgir Morbid Angel