So Alex Cunliffe got in touch with me in February and said, hey, you liked the first Bloodmores album a couple of years ago, so how about an advance copy of the second, Too Close to the Sun? Well, I leapt at the chance, of course, and appreciated the coincidence that it was going to be released on my fiftieth birthday. Happy birthday to me, right? Well, then I got caught up in all sorts of things so I'm only now getting round to this. Apologies for the delay in this review coming, Alex!
I had a blast with The Seeds of Seasons and it sits on my highly recommended list for 2019 with an 8/10. It was energetic British thrash metal with an infusion of death metal, especially throuugh Cunliffe's vocals, and some tinges of progressive metal too, most overtly on the fourteen minute title track that closed the whole thing out. While I preferred the thrash to the death, I really enjoyed the balance between the raw energy of a band new to the studio and the maturity of songwriting that usually comes with a heck of a lot of experience.
Given the advent of COVID, I doubt they've built on that experience as much as they'd have liked in the gap between albums, because of lockdowns and venue closures. Perhaps understandably, therefore, I would call this very much a continuation, with the same things to praise as last time but without much new to add to that list. They're still fast and energetic, arguably at their best when they're blistering along at a rate of knots, with the tightness and power of a Toranaga, but they can also slow down and mix it up with panache. It's still thrash more than it's death but Cunliffe's vocal is still rough, maybe a little deeper into death growl territory but not much.
There are a few little changes like that to figure out, if my brain isn't deceiving me. I think he's a little higher in the mix too, again only subtly but enough that the vocals remain prominent even on a track like Entombed in the Fires of Armageddon's Womb, where it's gone for half the piece so that the band can shift into the instrumental mode that I adore so much. There are few bands out there who can riff and chug the way Bloodmores can and yet continue to maintain melody as they do so. Frankly, I'm not even in need of solos from this band, though I wouldn't turn any down. They're just worthy icing on an already delicious cake.
Perhaps this is a little less progressive than last time, with a running time that's ten minutes shorter and no song making it past six and a half minutes, but I don't see either as a problem. As great as the first album was, it was a little long and the title track followed suit. I don't have that complaint here, but I'll add that my favourite song has to be the most progressive one, White Noise, so I'm clearly not advocating for the complete removal of the prog metal side of the Bloodmores sound and they didn't do that. It's not a big change and White Noise suggests that I may be dreaming.
Really, I'm poring over this with a microscope to find what's changed, because it's mostly the same ol' same ol' for Bloodmores. They know what they do well and they do a lot of it here. This band is so tight that I could sit back, close my eyes and listen to the instrumental interplay for hours. In fact, I have. I'd prefer a different vocal style from Cunliffe, but he does the thrashy death growl well enough, so that isn't a complaint. Others may find it a highlight.
The downsides are relatively minor, though I think they're enough to mean a 7/10 this time out rather than another 8/10. One is that there's nothing as catchy as Save Your Prayers, which was the standout on the prior album. The title track is partway there and Husk is too, but neither of those is in the same class as Save Your Prayers, leaving this consistent but without an obvious song to scream to the rafters about. Another is that there's no real flow to the album so, as enjoyable as it is, it just ends. It doesn't end with an end, if that makes sense, and I wanted to hear the next song and the one after that, which never came. Instead, I just started over, which was almost as good.
So, thanks, Alex, for the advance copy that I'm reviewing almost a month after everyone else. This is a solid follow up from the chugging riff machine that is Bloodmores, if not anything more than that. I'm still keen to see this band live, because I have a feeling they're just going to dominate whatever stage they end up performing on. What I think they need to do now is match the riffs with hooks and they'll be unstoppable.