Released in 2015, England’s pissed off metal crew Bloodyard and their second EP Darker Rage is just making the review rounds now since they’re fresh off a festival appearance. Word has it that they are prepping a brand new release and there’s always excitement to be had whenever you discover a band that you’ve never heard before. With Jason Vorhees’ cousin twice removed on the front cover, hell, I’m game.
The four tracks on Darker Rage present a workmanlike approach to 90s groove metal with touches of death and thrash. One would probably find albums by Slayer, Pantera, Pissing Razors, Exhorder, Arch Enemy, At the Gates, Carnal Forge and the first two Machine Head albums in the band members’ combined record collections. “Epitaph” sets the standard of the material with buzzing, groove-intensive, power chord riffs blazing a trebly trail while the drums lay down sternum cracking thrash timings and the bass lines stand surprisingly tall in the mix. Vocalist Donna Hurd spews forth shriek-y screeches and throatier mid-range growls, thankfully avoiding the overused pissed/pretty generics. The writing is traditional with the requisite eagle scream soloing providing a cool shift from the rocked-out 90s groove metal traits. They show promise all around but if anything is holding them back it’s the production. I’d love to see them advance the sound quality to the level of Pissing Razors’ Cast down the Plague (or something similar form the era) and they still have room to hone their songcraft.
“Sacred to None” is a stronger encapsulation of Bloodyard’s strengths. Guitarist Nick Adamson expands the guitarwork into a clean melodic tapestry enveloped by Dave Cowley’s warm, diamond sharp low-end. In fact the fluid bass arrangements provide some of the EP’s tightest instrumentation. From there a shrill, pinch harmonic riddled, thrash/groove slam sends the train off the tracks alongside high-speed snare cracks. A throbbing; carefully controlled thrash riff whips into a neck wreckin’ solo showcasing some feral metallurgy that’s damn good at what it does but would really benefit from a bigger production budget. The title track is also a pretty damn good time; ramming a spike gauntlet full of swaggering, slightly southern-burnt groove up your ass. It’s catchy stuff with an almost rock n’ rollin’, roadhouse punk feel…descending into shuffling, Bourbon belching riffs that feel like they could have hailed from Texas as opposed to the UK. Hurd utilizes her death metal register on this one for the disc’s most enraged vocal performance, second only to the impending closer. “Dead Relics” sees the quartet drawing their final breath with an initially wraithlike clean meditation. Things don’t stay clean for long since Matty Lee drops some shotgun blast beats; spiraling the tune into a moshing crusty thrasher that blows by in a flurry. As usual the unit eventually settles into a weighty groove yielding plenty of fist-pumping action.
Darker Rage is an admirable effort for the style. Once my ears got more accustomed to the thin mixing job, I was better able to sink into the songs and enjoy them. The songwriting is still in gestation but on the right path, the players gel and the aggression is welcome. There are some merits to Bloodyard’s efforts and they’re off to a solid start. Now I’d just love to see how much impact their sound can make with decent production and a further refinement of their songwriting abilities.[Visit the band's website]