Death metal, am I right? An overwrought genre filled with revivalists, midliners, technicians, and reinventors of varying qualities and impressivenesses. Holy shit, modern death metal is crap shoot nowadays – still, I listen because I don’t mind being proven wrong on the former statement and I definitely don’t wanna miss out on immense talent that shows itself regardless of my exhaustion with the genre at large.
This is what makes Blindfolded and Led to the Woods remarkable and worth talking about. Not only does their name describe either a nice surprise outdoor date or the opening act of a true crime thriller and nothing in between, these killer kiwis know their craft and aren’t quiet about it. With so many permutations of death metal around, it’s really a matter of how and not what. How weighty is the instrumentation? How melodic is it? How technical does it get? How are vocals approached?
Blindfolded answer it all and more with a resounding ‘yes’ as Rejecting Obliteration is rather consummate in its execution. Heaviness reigns of course, but there’s a myriad of methods to show that. The title track for example (and “Cicada” for that matter) has a lovely clean, atmospheric section that splits up the sonic sack-kicking that is the rest of the song, and even those moments carry a malaise. Vocals are beastly and feral, appropriately so, but with two vocalists on duty they vary with more enunciated (marginally) cleaner passages that drill into your head like the Cerebral Bore from Turok 2: Seeds of Evil (I know I’ve made that reference before, but it’s been at least a few years).
Like Revocation and Psycroptic before them, Blindfolded are just good, capable of churning out remarkably solid material like it’s nothing. Nuances are explored, changes are upped, but the skeletal structure is largely the same, because it’s sturdy as hell; brolic and ready to frolic. You may not get the most innovative, progressive structuring, or inhuman technicality a la Archspire, but Blindfolded has heart and that’s how they win. One of my favorite songs on here is “Methlehem” which, first of all, that title. Second, it’s a ripper, a caustic diatribe against religious ignorance and fascism, particularly Christofascism (this is a little funnier if you know they’re from Christchurch, New Zealand). The vocals have a hardcore/powerviolence quality to them sometimes, like in the final full verse:
‘Unkept promises of salvation
Education replaced with Mary’s bosom
Warm milk tastes better than rationality
Getting your Sunday fix’
The final refrain of ‘Tell me your naughty little secrets‘ has a massive riff at the end in this breakdown-like section where I would imagine people in the pit would be going the fuck off, doing their best Eddy Gordo from Tekken impressions. Again, nothing groundbreaking, but affecting nonetheless. It’s very easy to get behind a song like this that wields profound power against a common enemy. It’s like a more mature, fleshed-out version of their old song, “Free Thought + A Time Machine =”, showing growth in both approach and technicality. We love to see a good glow-up.
Speaking of hardcore, “Funeral Smiles” is another great highlight that doesn’t even breach the two-minute mark. It simply ruptures forth, unstoppable like the pyroclastic flow from a volcano. Hell, opener “Monolith” deserves special distinction as well for the lashing it gives you right out the gate. Great drum work here that’s punchy and clean, warm bass tones that don’t rattle you at all, and guitars that are front-and-center without taking over the whole track as they are wont to do in this permutation of metal.
And that’s what you get on the entirety of Rejecting Obliteration: competent rage, conscious cataclysm, a sense of dread that metastasizes into billowing, uneasy energy. Even the cover, by master painter Eliran Kantor, shows an entity at war with itself, an ouroboric moment wrapped into infinity where destruction seems to be the end goal, but the cyclical nature of it all ensures the goal isn’t met. Is that uplifting? Is that the act of rejecting obliteration? Or is it denial of an end to pain, prolonging agony into unknown times? It’s some tragic Greek god shit, but it fits the violent, damned nature of the music well too.
This is not the first time Everything Is Noise has been swept into the gnarled sound of Blindfolded and Led to the Woods – I must shout out my pal Hanna and their awesome review of the band’s last album from March 2021 – and I have a feeling this won’t be the last. I see the band moving into grand new territory, a far cry from their more immature, loose origins which were more the shock and awe, deviant type of death metal. That’s good and fine, but their lane is here, or wherever they want it to be really. Evolution is not a one-use ticket and so they, nor we, should count out another cocooning into something more drastic or lethal. At any rate, let’s hope people mount a search party for those of us the band has successfully led to their woods… it’s getting cold and I forgot my pocket knife and flint striker.