Rejecting Obliteration

rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Monolith
02. Methlehem
03. Hallucinative Terror
04. Rejecting Obliteration
05. Wrath
06. Cicada
07. Funeral Smiles
08. The Waves
09. Hands of Contrition
10. Caustic Burns

After two solid albums couldn't make their mind up between deathcore savagery and something more progressive, BLINDFOLDED AND LED TO THE WOODS really came into their own on "Nightmare Withdrawals" two years ago. Suddenly, this New Zealand crew were measurably distinct from the legions of traditional and even traditionally progressive death metal bands. A beautifully fucked up and challenging piece of work, it marked the band out as charismatic originals in a world of willing clones. Either that or BLINDFOLDED AND LED TO THE WOODS really are as deranged as their highly evolved music suggests.

"Rejecting Obliteration" certainly draws from death metal's fundamental principles, with sick and scuzzy guitar tones, feral bellowing and a smattering of riffs with a decidedly old-school flavor. But beyond those perfectly acceptable concessions, this is a seriously perverse and unprecedented squall of noise. Opener "Monolith" feels like six songs in one, as the tone snaps from syncopated death metal battering to churning, angular noise rock and then to a strange blend of intricate prog metal and ghostly shoegaze. In the hands of amateurs, it would be a mess. In the hands of these unhinged ingenues, it becomes indecently exciting.

Amazingly, the rest of "Rejecting Obliteration" lives up to its astonishing start. Aside from being a great song title, "Methlehem" condenses BLINDFOLDED AND LED TO THE WOODS' restlessness down to a seamless collage of violent riffing. "Hallucinative Terror" is unholy tech-death viewed through a cracked mirror. The title track veers from swathes of pitiless doom and the most vicious of white-knuckle blasts, to waves of soporific, glassy ambience and noise. Spectral post-metal and backwards MORBID ANGEL riffs inform "Wrath", while "Cicada" is a master class in quiet / loud dynamics, evolving in real time from a skewed deathgrind bombardment to a tangibly haunted, post-punk detour, and then back for more hateful hammering that fades to a grotesque hiss of disdain.

Elsewhere, "Funeral Smiles" is a two-minute, avant-death skirmish; "The Waves" is a stunning, schizophrenic mini-symphony that showcases the crazy levels of chemistry between members of this band; "Hands of Contrition" is classic death metal grandeur fed through the mind of an absurdist. Lastly, "Caustic Burns" slowly swarms across seven dense, dramatic minutes, growing from all-out aggro to eerie, blackened scree, and ending with a morbid, desolate flourish.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing death metal the traditional way. That is reaffirmed on an almost weekly basis. But every genre needs bands that aren't just willing to fuck with the formula, but that simply couldn't imagine doing it any other way. BLINDFOLDED AND LED TO THE WOODS are true originals and "Rejecting Obliteration" is gripping from first to last.

Author: Dom Lawson
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