Syracuse, NY’s Bleak has come of age on their first full length release We Deserve Our Failures via the venerable HEX Records. Since I first encountered the band at a very random live show in 2013, they’ve changed considerably. Most notably, they changed vocalists later in that same year, eschewing the raspy scrape and sneer of former singer Mike, and trading it in for the vicious growl of current frontman Skot. With that altered lineup and a couple of shorter releases under their belts (2014’s s/t EP and a split 7” with PA hardcore crushers Sovereign), the band has grown from a noise drenched, simplistic assault into something somehow beefier, more mature, and more complexly heavy.
We Deserve Our Failures finds the band’s sound straddling sludge and hardcore, with a dose of grit and noise mixed in for good measure. What Bleak presents on this record is actually most closely aligned with metalcore, but in the best and most expansive sense of the word – drawing influence from bands like Botch, Converge, and Disembodied, and reflecting their Syracuse roots in flourishes reminiscent of bands like Ed Gein and guitarist TJ Calandra’s former band Architect.
The album charges out of the gate on opening track Guilt Tripper; an angular blast of dissonance, completely devoid of melody that eventually gives way to some monstrous mid-tempo sludge. This song acts as kind of a mission statement for the band, encapsulating their range fully and showcasing their penchant for sections of staccato violence and downtuned menace.
Other standout tracks like Handicapper General, Death by 1000 Cuts, and Deficit relentlessly pound as they make their way through grimy, rolling hardcore riffs and into chaotic transitions that finally leave the listener to be devoured by heavy conclusions. The record’s other tracks mainly present some well executed variations on those themes, although the midpoint Century of Youth, and closing track Eternal Silent Darkness slow things down a bit, opting to take the sense of despair and heaviness up to a maximum level, providing the perfect destructive backdrop for the brute roar of the vocals. The 10+ minute long final track also contains a massive middle section that calls to mind mid-late 90’s Neurosis, adding to its monolithic sludge vibe.
In fact, one of the defining features of We Deserve Our Failures is that everything feels turned up to the limit, and the songs basically bleed ultimate levels of feedback, distortion, and rage. While this kind of sonic approach can have its definite downside, Bleak largely avoids the typical negatives associated with it. The songs do not overstay their welcome, and the sound is varied enough over the course of their ~30 minute span that the album tends to come across as a cohesive set of tracks rather than a redundant one. Taken as a whole, We Deserve Our Failures effectively establishes a texture of pervasive pain, futility, and hopelessness that is a fitting tribute to the band’s namesake. Rating: 8/10
We Deserve Our Failures will be released later this summer via HEX Records, check http://www.hanginghex.blogspot.com/ for pre-order info/release updates.
Bleak embarks on their first full US tour today, 6/19. Catch their violence at one of the dates below: