Harrogate quartet, Blood Youth, are one of those bands that fall into the meaningless category of “modern metal” and end up missing out on exposure to the wider underground where tastes are more obscure and extreme. This is a shame because their music is heavy enough to sit in the record collection of the metal gatekeepers and dynamic enough for the hardcore kids to gobble up. Though 2019’s Starve album flirted with nu metal and their roots are in punk, Visions of Another Hell is a firm metal record, much like the latest LP from Employed to Serve. It also dropped as a surprise release on 1 October, although that might have something to do with the amicable departure of vocalist, Kaya Tarsus, in the weeks leading up to the event.
One look at the Fear Factory and Meshuggah t-shirts in the band’s latest promos tells you what you need to know here. Blood Youth take the aggression of metallic hardcore and the rage of Slipknot and round it out with the fattest Machine Head riffs you can imagine. Yet they ease you into their dark pit of despair with opener, ‘a-LTX’, employing keyboard atmospherics and simple guitar picking before the metal crunch arrives. It may be his last album, but Kaya Tarsus screams like it’s his first with plenty of vim and vigour. The sporadic glitch effects will remind you of Code Orange, just as the way they build on a Robb Flynn riff for ‘Iron lung’ will remind you of that classic mid-90s groove metal sound. You’ll find it hard to believe these boys used to play punk – this is a chugging beast of a song with plenty of heavy down-picking and muscular screams where they might have used clean vocals in the past. When they do switch to the latter, it seldom fails. Only on ‘Open Window’ does the intrusion of a melodic head voice spoil the momentum.
Tarsus announced that he had to quit the band for mental health reasons, and you can tell he struggled with some dark demons during the isolation of the Covid-19 lockdown. The mood of the music is darker and the drop-tuned guitars less inclined to dazzle when their job is to create a sense of despair. ‘Cells’ thrives on a crawling drum pattern of double-kicks and grinding bass guitar and relies on electronic percussion effects and esoteric keyboards for its power. Blood Youth show restraint here when you expect them to ignite, but it’s a clever ploy to prepare you for the Slipknot bludgeoning of ‘Body of Wire’. Who fancies a barrage of blast beats and hardcore rage with a melodic chorus refrain of “I just want to close my eyes for the very last time”? If you said no, you can stop reading this review, although the atmospheric death metal intro to ‘Colony3’ and technical thrash precision in the middle eight of ‘Human Blur’ should keep you onboard. The latter makes good use of wah pedals and palm-muted syncopation as Tarsus screams the haunting line, “Please forgive me for what I’ve become.” There are enough vintage Sepultura riffs here to please even the most sceptical of metal puritans.
The only flaws in this enjoyable record are the occasional throwaway choruses. Some of the song structures are also a bit predictable, as on ‘Synthetic’ and ‘Something to Numb the Pain’, although both are memorable in their own way. Their attempt to end the album with the poignancy of a Nine Inch Nails ‘Hurt’ moment is a risky one, but it’s the perfect way to bring together all the prevailing emotions into one snapshot of seven minutes and thirty-eight seconds. The listener can only imagine the alienation and despondency Tarsus experienced if he had to quit the band for the sake of his own sanity.
We started this review by lamenting the use of the term “modern metal”, and we can dispense with it here. Visions of Another Hell is a straight-up metal record, but it’s a dark one. We can only hope new vocalist, Harry Rule, is up to the task of taking the band to the next level when they unleash this on a live audience. There’s no reason why this should be their final album, but if it is, Blood Youth can be proud of their efforts.
Release Date: 01/10/2021
Record Label: Rude Records
Standout tracks: Iron Lung, Cells, Human Blur
Suggested Further Listening: Employed to Serve – Conquering (2021), Code Orange – Forever (2016), Machine Head – Burn My Eyes (1994)