20 Apr 2021
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Blindfolded and Led to the Woods - Album Review: Nightmare Withdrawals

25 Mar 2021 // A review by Kev Rowland

I first came across Christchurch-based band Blindfolded and Led to the Woods some four years back when they released their second album, Modern Adoxography. It had a huge impact on me, and I described it as having a musical foundation built upon brutal death metal, elements of demented grindcore and bizarre sci-fi tones weaving their way into the complex structures, resulting in an engaging and damaging listening experience. Not long after that, Sepultura made the decision to play a Student Union gig in the city (I kid you not), and as support they not only had the mighty Death Angel, but BALTTW opened the evening. The mix of death-influenced metal combining with thrash and groove made for an unforgettable night and is still one of my favourite gigs. Needless to say, when I heard it was time for the third album, I prepared myself for quite an onslaught, and I was not disappointed.

Callum Gay of Wellington-based Spook The Horses provides guest vocals on Lucid Visitations, but surely the coup for the band must be the appearance of none other than legendary Nile founder Karl Sanders who provides his delicate touch to the single Atop The Wings Of A Magpie. When it comes to extreme music there are few with such a track record of leading the way and breaking new grounds within the scene, and he said that when he first heard the track,  he felt it was “bursting with feeling and atmosphere [and] a real sense of disorientation, despair, fear of the unknown, and a loss of humanity”. Quite a statement, but there again this is quite an album. Since the last release they have parted company with Jared Morgan, who has been replaced by Ben Atkinson of Athenic, but everyone else in the band has been there since the beginning more than a decade ago, and it shows.

For those who do not normally listen to this style of music it would be easy to discount it as yet another death metal album, but what we have here is an incredible sense of maturity which adds to the sheer depth and breadth of this release. When they are at full pelt then the music is driving and powerful, and it is easy to look past the complex patterns coming from the drums, the rough buzzsaw bass, or the twin guitars which lock in as one and mix together multiple different death and black metal styles, with wonderful growls from singer Stace Fifield. But what makes this album stand out from so many is the use of dynamics which make the light seem out of place and the darker material even heavier; there are so many different sections and tempos within the songs themselves, and the more one is really prepared to pay attention the more there is to discover. Lemmy famously once sang “Only way to feel the noise, Is when it's good and loud”, and while in many ways it can be argued that is the only way to get the best from Nightmare Withdrawals, this is actually a Progressive Death album that is musically all over the place and consequently this can even be played at more ‘normal’ volumes, even though it is incredibly intense.

The band feel this is a “coming of age” album for them, and I can certainly understand that viewpoint as it is mature and solid. Anyone who has been living in Christchurch within the last ten or so years has been through some pretty harrowing experiences, and the band have channelled these feelings into the album, but have also recognised that not everything results in aggression and that there are also times for self-reflection and beauty alongside the pain. This is an album which is going to find them gaining a great deal of fans outside of Aotearoa, and deservedly so. All we have to do now is wait for the tour, but until then this is going to stay on repeat as extreme music rarely gets better than this.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About Blindfolded and Led to the Woods

Blindfolded and Led to the Woods formed from the dissolving band Sacrament which featured members J-rad (guitars, vocals) Stuart (guitars, vocals) and Tim on drums. Just before the end of Sacrament, Jazz also joined the band on 3rd guitar, changing their sound dramatically. Once the decision was made to end Sacrament once and for all Stuart began writing the first songs for Blindfolded.

After getting down half a set the band decided to recruit a vocalist, and the songs were becoming too complex for J-Rad and Stuart to continue singing over, so the decision was made to ask friend, Stace Fifield to join. He accepted and immediately gave the band a new feel and sound with his black metal high screams and brutal low growls. The band played thier first show at Als Bar on April 9th, 2010. At this show Stuart was approached by Nick Smith, and he made the offer to play bass for Blindfolded. The band talked it over and decided to give him a shot... Nick learned the whole set in 9 days and went on to play his first show with the band, nailing the performance securing his place as bass player for Blindfolded and Led to the Woods.

In the next stage of BALTTW Jazz was relieved of his duties in the band, and they continued to advance as a 5 piece, travelling the country destroying crowds young and old. 2011 saw Blindfolded and led to the woods sign to Swimming with sharks records USA, not bad for some drunken dudes from CHCH, New Zealand.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Blindfolded and Led to the Woods

Releases

Nightmare Withdrawals
Year: 2021
Type: Album
Modern Adoxography
Year: 2017
Type: Album
My Vaseline Diaries
Year: 2014
Type: Album

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