Released: 2015, Another Century/Century Media Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Chicago's The Bloodline have an odd and somewhat storied, well, bloodline. The band began as Dirge Within – actually originally Dirge – in 2007 led by guitarist Shaun Glass, who cut his teeth as bassist with death metallers Broken Hope before founding the decidedly more hard rocking and pedestrian Soil. After a pair of rather unremarkable albums and EPs, and a series of lineup changes that was culminated by a nasty split with frontman Jeremy “Jerms” Genske in late 2012, Dirge Within re-emerged with new singer Travis Neal of Divine Heresy and soon rechristened themselves The Bloodline.
While all this was going on, Glass and lead guitarist Chuck Wepfer joined the reunited Broken Hope for tumultuous two-year stints that ended late last year. By then, The Bloodline had a new deal with Century Media offshoot Another Century and a new album in the offing, which brings us to the present. Not exactly sure what necessitated the name change, since The Bloodline’s sound isn't much of a departure – if any at all - from Dirge Within's Slipknot meets Killswitch Engage nu/modern metal bluster.
It also isn't that much of an improvement – though Neal does prove himself to be a far more gymnastic and evocative vocalist than the bulldog-like Genske. His soaring clean vocals give The Bloodline a more melodic/anthemic feel all by themselves, and the band have written tunes that take full advantage of that, as well as Wepfer's dextrous, dynamic guitar playing. Indeed they lay it on a bit too thick.
There remains the big-time emphasis on groove that was Dirge Within's forte, so to speak. The songs all thud along on a fat bottom end and thick, fist-pumping riffs and inevitably build to anthemic swells and money-shot choruses where Neal really airs out his pipes before Wepfer offers up a widdly twiddly solo – lather, rinse, repeat.
“Poisonous” flips the script and finds Neal singing most of the way through, save for a few emphatic growls and some punk rocky “woah, oh, woahs,” as does “Divided,” which boasts a pretty sweet hookline, and serve as high points here. The rest all kinda just blend together, riding the same turgid, butt-rocky tempos that emphasize meaty riffs to the point where the impact is lost and interest wanes. The big, Bic-flicking ballad near the album's end is all too inevitable and delivers exactly the sort of melodrama you'd expect it would.
Despite the new name, The Bloodline show pretty much the same lack of imagination of old. Not even Neal's excellent vocals and comparatively inspired performance, nor Wepfer's occasionally nifty guitaring, can to much to help in that regard.