After witnessing Sacramento’s With Passion’s frenzied live show on the new Deicide tour, my respect for them only increased. Their full-length debut, IN THE MIDST OF BLOODIED SOIL, was recently released on Earache Records and I was blown away after initially writing it off as yet another metalcore CD, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, the band does dabble in the European melodies but behind all that is a sparkling technicality to the riffs and keyboards usually reserved for the blackest of black metal releases. Never does this escalate to overwrought Dimmu/Cradle dependence, either; rather they tinkle in the background, lending a haunting landscape to the proceedings. Vocally, Sam McLeod is the one generic component of this band and that is not necessarily his fault. This type of music dictates a certain style and McLeod nails it, but as far as extending his vocals beyond a pained roar, forget it. I suppose one could make the connection to THE GALLERY-era Dark Tranquillity but that would be a stretch on all other levels because the guitars are far too “busy” for a hooky melody most of the time yet never quite reach The Dillinger Escape Plan in terms of whirling spastics, either. There is clearly more to With Passion than another group of kids who studied up on their At The Gates and then lucked out by riding a trend.
“Train Wreck Orchestra” is a turbulent dervish of convulsing arrangements that really takes more than one listen to fully grasp. Shaun Gier and Andrew Burt lay down some technical riffing and finger-tapping that, while not exactly novel, still impresses with its overall aptitude. “The Last Scripture” is full-on melodic death heaven with a twisting lead that hearkens back to gods of Gothenburg at times and a solo that will leave the listener awestruck. Jacob Peete’s thunderous double bass is also used effectively here and is not used a crutch throughout the CD. The time changes used in this track are worth noting more so for their fluid transitions than technical prowess. Flawlessly drifting between blastbeats and dizzying riffs, the band shifts gears and delivers a stirring melody and groove-driven bottom end. The most metalcore moment occurs in the sub-breakdown on “Forlorn Hope.” Never does McLeod say “break it down” and there are no chugga-chugga riffs in sight but the pattern is there. The rest of the song is a bit of a breather as the sublime, almost jazzy, clean guitar is coupled with a folk-like keyboard presence. The two beautiful instrumental pieces””“The Scorpion’s Dance” and “The Prophecies of Hellfire”””are quite stunning, not only for the lush backdrop they create but for the fact the chaotic madness and anxiety created by the other six tracks are juxtaposed perfectly with the serenity of a simple keyboard and gently plucked guitar. Simply brilliant sequencing of the tracks.
Without naming names, With Passion is one step (actually many steps) ahead of the endless metalcore pack with IN THE MIDST OF BLOODIED SOIL. There are no clean vocals or emo whining, no breakdowns and the reliance on catchy dual guitar solos has been checked at the door. With Passion is American, young and their look will most likely force people to form a judgment upon them before even hearing a note (much like I did), however venturing into this sea of talent with an open mind will leave the listener simultaneously breathless and comforted.
KILLER KUTS: “Train Wreck Orchestra,” “The Last Scripture,” “The Scorpion’s Dance,” “Forlorn Hope”
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