Bloodsimple features bassist Kyle Sanders, who is the brother of Mastadon’s Troy Sanders. I mention this only because I’m one of the few reviewers who prefer Bloodsimple to Mastadon. Sure, Bloodsimple have a somewhat conventional approach, but sometimes a little convention is a good thing. That’s how you end up with little things called “songs” rather than the tangled mass of overrated riffs that was “Blood Mountain.” Besides which, any band which takes their name from a Coen Brothers’ film and makes reference to the Mel Brooks’ movie “Space Balls” on their album automatically gets bonus points in my book – “Dark Helmet” even ends with Rick Moranis’ asthmatic parody of a certain Sith Lord’s infamous raspy breathing.
While Mastodon is busy penning lyrics about Moby Dick and crystal skulls, Bloodsimple’s songs are steeped in the seamy underbelly of Americana. Insanity, serial killers, drug use, and anarchy – all those cheery themes weave through “Red Harvest”. For example, on “Ride With Me”, the tale of a serial killer with the worst Oedipal Complex since Norman Bates, vocalist Tim Williams delivers droning narrative vocals reminiscent of a drugged out Johnny Cash. That is, if Johnny Cash sounded as hardcore as he looked and had an unhealthy fixation with Ed Gein and Hunter S. Thompson.
It’s a technique Williams repeats through out the album, adding to the whiskey soaked feel of the Brand New Sin meets New York Hardcore formula Bloodsimple established on “A Cruel World”. Whether that’s your cup of tea or not, it sure as hell beats the average metalcore bands ripping off Gothenburg, Iron Maiden, and Metallica riffs within an inch of their lives.
The songs on “Red Harvest”, while not likely to win over anyone not impressed by “A Cruel World”, do benefit from a more polished and experienced approach. Unfortunately, an extra layer of polish can highlight flaws as well as virtues. The band has taken a considerably more aggressive approach on “Red Harvest”, which is good news for hardcore fans. However, it comes at the expense of the atmospheric, PINK FLOYD inspired tracks that were the most interesting part of “A Cruel World”- only the Bluesy “Ride With Me” and ballad “Truth (Thicker than Water)” call those moments to mind. The good news is, most of the time, the aggressive numbers maintain enough melody and energy to stick in your head while still kicking you in the face. In some cases, however, the balance is lost, and the result is all sound and fury signifying nothing.
While they’re better off steering clear of Mastadon’s excesses, if the boys in Bloodsimple really want to push the envelope, they should look to more experimental, not more aggressive, waters. Perhaps they could stand at the crossroads of the latest Hidden Hand and Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster albums, and blend psychotic Johnny Cash and a hardcore edge with 70’s prog and southern rock, or sell their souls to the Devil and incorporate some Mississippi Delta Blues. In the meantime, however, if you’re just plain pissed at the world and need something to scream along to, “Red Harvest” fits the bill very nicely.