Released: 2017, Self-released
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
The first full-length from England's The Bleeding barely rates as an “album,” especially since at 31 minutes it's only seven minutes longer than the band's debut 2013 EP Death Eternal and offers just two more songs – one being the intro “Precognition” the other being a cover of Death's “Open Casket.” But semantics or technicalities aside, it's pretty obvious the band at least spent the last four years closing ranks, honing their craft and focusing on quality over quantity.
With vocalist Jamie Stungo – who sounds like a cross between Steve Souza from Exodus and the late Oderus Urungus from Gwar – and drummer James Loh joining guitarist Tasos Tzimorotas and bassist Sean Richardson since the EP, The Bleeding have developed a sound more akin to old school Bay Area thrash than the kind of Cannibal Corpse death metal that would seem to have inspired their name. This despite the Death cover.
Rites of Absolution offers hooky, chugging riffs and brisk, moshable tempos aplenty, recalling Testament, Death Angel and Exodus over much its half-hour, with but a few death/black metally moments, as on “Death Eternal” or the tremolo-tinged “Dream of Hatred.” Even the cover of “Open Casket” has a predominantly thrash edge as the brash production gives the guitars and drum a ringing, high-end clarity that belies the grit and low-end sludginess of the original.
Stungo's vocals, too, are more raspy than guttural, so The Bleeding's version sounds a lot cleaner than the original. But that's fine, given that Gruesome have pretty much cornered the market on vintage Death authenticity these days anyway.
The rest of the album, though arguably on the chintzy side, packs a lot of wallop into its tidy package. The aforementioned muscular production really brings out the crunch in Tzimorotas' riffs and the surging rhythms from Loh and Richardson boast plenty of oomph to back them up. And the aggression the band brings to bear as things really kick off with “Consumed Existence” rarely lets up, especially with Stungo shouting like a drill sergeant over the top of it.
So The Bleeding make the most of what they have to offer on Rites of Absolution. Perhaps next time, though, there will be a bit more of it.