hat a difference a producer can make. Rob Caggiano, producer for Dry Kill Logic, Cradle of Filth, and Anthrax, and former lead guitarist for the latter, has turned Bleeding Through from a merely good band into a very good one. The band's latest album, The Truth, debuted this month at #1 in the Billboard independent music charts, as well as #48 in the Top 200. True, Trustkill Records had a massive promotional campaign for the album months before its release. But in this case, the music justifies the hype. When a band puts up these numbers after last releasing an album in 2003, it is doing something right.
Conservative environments spawn cultural backlash, and California's Orange County is no exception. The OC yielded Social Distortion, Agent Orange, and The Adolescents in the '80s, and has been a recent hotbed of hardcore punk and metal bands like Throwdown, Eighteen Visions, Avenged Sevenfold, and Atreyu. Bleeding Through arose out of this scene around 2000. Early efforts were spirited, if generic, takes on metal-tinged hardcore, but the band broke through in 2003 with This Is Love, This Is Murderous. The album was furious, precise, and very metal, with keyboards adding gothic ambience. But the songs were just "almost there," not hooky enough to stick. Still, the band built a following on the high-profile Ozzfest and Headbangers Ball tours, and the addition of photogenic keyboardist Marta didn't hurt, either.
The Truth is a big step forward from its predecessor. The album is very much the Rob Caggiano show, as he handles production, recording, and mixing. With drums, bass, two guitars, keyboards, and vocals fighting for sonic space, previous Bleeding Through albums sounded thin and suffocated. Caggiano somehow makes sense of the mess with a clear, powerful mix. More importantly, he tightens the band's songwriting. Songs now have hooks, choruses, and natural transitions. Although the choruses feature clean singing that's frankly quite plain, accessible arrangements and melodies keep the singing palatable. When pedestrian elements (competent death and thrash metal riffs, chugging hardcore breakdowns, screamed vocals) produce hard-hitting songs like "Dearly Demented" that stick in one's head, good production is evident. The only misstep is "Line in the Sand," a ponderous ballad that sounds like Creed gone goth. Ease up on the clean vocals, guys—you don't need them to sell records.
Best of all, Caggiano pushes the keyboards up front in the mix. Keyboards in metal are a dicey proposition, but here they are simple, melodic, and dark. The result is a black metal vibe that points toward a unique sound for Bleeding Through. American metal bands today routinely mix influences, but for some reason have yet to embrace black metal. Album closer "The Truth" hints at delicious sonic possibilities. On this instrumental, the band slows down and opens up its sound, with a stately keyboard climax that suggests Isis playing a funeral. If Bleeding Through goes this route and further stirs black metal into its pot, it could do some real damage.