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Sounds like … the post-hardcore, alternative metal barricade of similar bands such as Hoobastank, Taproot, and SalivaAt a glance … while Blindside doesn't match the grandeur of their major label debut, they build on it by incorporating new elements and digging up part of their indie pastTrack ListingEye of the StormFollow You DownAll of UsShekinaHooray, It's L.ASwallowDie BuyingAcross Waters AgainAfter You're GoneWhere the Sun Never DiesRoadsAbout a Burning Fire
Softies be warned; this is a hard record. And by hard I don't mean Metallica hard or even P.O.D. hard. Sweden's Blindside have always been difficult to categorize, due to the multiple components that make up their music. There's power vocalist Christian Lindskog, whose towering, melodic rock voice alternates and overlaps bloodcurdling, almost feline shrieks—sometimes even in the same breath. The result is quite painful-sounding—I call it "melo-guttural"—but melds well with Simon Grenehed's high-pitched, sinewy guitar licks. By the time the rhythm section—bassist Tomas Naslund, drummer Marcus Dahlstrom—joins the cacophonous fun, you have an outfit that's hard to compare to other more conventional stateside acts, hardcore or otherwise.
On their Elektra debut, Blindside teamed with producer guru producer Howard Benson and mixing wunderkind Chris Lord-Alge for the ironically-titled opus Silence. They toured the album nonstop in the U.S. and abroad, landing well-deserved opening gigs for P.O.D., Linkin Park, Hoobastank, and others. Now they've reunited with Benson and Lord-Alge for About a Burning Fire. As an album, it doesn't quite live up to the sonic precedent set by Silence, but it does see the group branching out and exploring their melodic capabilities even further.
The remarkable first single "All of Us" exemplifies this to a tee. Lindskog abstains from screaming almost cold-turkey, as the band marches along to a metronomic tempo in the verses, later transitioning to an explosive, ultra-singable chorus about the need for belonging. The driving "After You're Gone" follows a similar vein, this time at that sped-up ¾ pace they master so well, with a lyric pondering the abject state of a godless life: "Skin untouched growing thicker for every step unwalked … but what if You'd sing me alive."
Surprises come in many forms on About a Burning Fire. "Hooray, It's L.A." boasts guest guitar work from Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins, Zwan). While it's typical Blindside, Corgan and guitarist Grenehed somewhat mimic the Corgan-Iha sound from the Pumpkins: "dueling" guitars with each taking a separate channel in your stereo as they show off their stuff. On "Shekina," the falsetto chanting of Swedish vocalist Emma Härdelin gives a world feel to an enigmatic rock ballad adorned with tribal beats and an ominous string section. Lastly, the title track is easily the hardest dose of melancholy this side of A Thought Crushed My Mind (Blindside's 2000 release on Solid State Records), a visceral, unrelenting track that can blow your eardrums off if you don't watch the decibel level.
Lyrically, About a Burning Fire is quite poetic and spiritual. The aforementioned "All of Us" touches with aplomb on the theme of falling from grace into the care of our Master: "I slipped, stumbled, but fell face first/Straight into Your hand/Hit my head with Your palm/Waking up to the smell of tears drying up in the sand." In "Die Buying," the rockers decry the enslaving consequences of materialism, juxtaposing it with the higher value of true freedom. And loungey alterna-folk number "Roads" speaks of the brevity of life in light of the divine: "It's time to sober up and die … Every little second flies/I hold on to them like pieces of paradise."
Hardcore purists may enjoy the rougher mix of Burning Fire, but what made Silence so delectable was its clean, tight mixwork—throbbing lows, shimmering highs, warm mediums—that left no doubt that the band had jumped to the big leagues. But Burning Fire gives the impression that master knob-turner Lord-Alge was having an off day, as tracks that seem grand on paper come out dirty and cluttered in practice ("Follow You Down"). The arrangements have simplified a little bit; don't expect many of those sudden mid-song tempo changes or breathtaking, odd-metered bridges that felt like the floor had vanished from under you (see "Painting" or "Midnight" from Silence).
It's valid to point out that Blindside's newfound appreciation for the melodic doesn't necessarily make them more accessible. Yes, Lindskog's voice still soars and reaches formidable highs—at times so formidable it's scary—but the melodies are still pungent and deceptively hardcore. It's not an easy listen, but one that requires repeated spins in order to fully grasp and enjoy. Blindside may be taking a couple of detours here, but ultimately the roads chosen still bring you back to a group that has never stopped playing for the fringes.