‘Bloodied / Unbowed’ album review

Image courtesy of Solid State Records

album: Bloodied / Unbowed
artist: Oh, Sleeper
genre: metal
release date: July 12, 2019
star rating: five out of five

review by Levi Yager

Oh, Sleeper is back with a vengeance. Their new full-length, Bloodied / Unbowed, is an unbreachable wall of fury, pocked with fleeting serenity and overgrown with violent aggression. It’s a testament to the band’s living legacy and a reaffirmation of the passion they have for their music. Simply put, you don’t want to miss this one, folks.

For those who may be unaware, Bloodied / Unbowed is a concept album and a sequel to Oh, Sleeper’s previous EP, The Titan. The details of the story in Bloodied / Unbowed aren’t totally clear from my initial listens, but it seems the narrative has come to at least some kind of resolution.

Anticipation hangs thick in the air at the beginning of opening track “Let It Wave.” Ominous, minimal percussion is heard before dark guitar riffs and a pulsing drum beat take over. Screams are later joined by gang vocals in the chorus, yelling the song’s title. And later on, the breakdown at the bridge is everything a fan could ask for. It’s not the most impressive song on the album, but it gets things started ever so perfectly. “Let It Wave” is a triumphant anthem that heralds the band’s return with their signature sound and energy.

It’s followed by “Decimation & Burial,” which is every bit as brutal as it sounds. Frenetic guitar work initiates the off-kilter melody that’s soon reinforced by the vocals. After that, it’s all a blur. “Decimation & Burial” brings the full-on intensity that was teased in the song before it, and it’s one of my personal favorites on Bloodied / Unbowed. Its vigor is matched only by track number seven, “Mutinous,” which is a visceral force of nature in its own right.

Most of Bloodied / Unbowed is, of course, substantially heavy. However, there are a couple softer cuts present. “Two Ships,” the fifth track, slows way down and is one of the prettiest songs by Oh, Sleeper. That is, until its conclusion. The song eventually dives deep into a sea of turmoil with the scream, “This has all been a lie.” Then, the listener is treated to some guttural lows from lead vocalist Micah Kinard. And the song ends with the lyrics, “I’m always right beside you.” The other soft song is the final track, titled “The Summit.” Oh, Sleeper takes a stripped-down approach here, with only guitar strumming and clean vocals for the entire first half. Adding in some percussion, the tension builds and builds until slowly and harmoniously dissipating at the end. It leaves the listener with, “Every man has a mountain to fear.”

Honestly, there’s so much Oh, Sleeper does right in Bloodied / Unbowed. First, it’s great that they continued what they started in The Titan after six years. Second, from an artistic standpoint, you can tell the band poured their blood, sweat and tears into this record. The swift guitar licks, the savage screams, the indomitable drumming and the emotional cleans never come off as stale. This is largely due to the intentional arrangements within each song and also the overall pacing of the album. The tracklisting order even feels right. Oh, Sleeper truly holds the listener’s interest captive until the very last note, providing an album with a lot of meat to tear into. Whether you enjoy hard songs with cool structure such as “The Island” or prefer straightforward ragers like “Oxygen,” Bloodied / Unbowed delivers in spades. I can’t remember the last time music literally gave me chills on every listen like this album did. You’ll want to take in every minute of it.

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