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Bloodride - Planet Alcatraz

Planet Alcatraz
by Ben Fitts at 04 May 2017, 12:29 AM

Most of what one would need to know about “Planet Alcatraz” can be revealed by merely glancing at the album’s artwork. It is somewhat challenging to really describe what is to be seen on that album cover with just words, so I do urge you to look at the artwork yourself. But what it worth noting about the gaudy drawing is that it is as generic as it is nonsensical. When looked upon, one cannot help but wonder “Why?”. This is similarly true of listening to the music on “Planet Alcatraz”.

“Planet Alcatraz” is the third full-length album by the Finnish thrash quintet BLOODRIDE. With “Planet Alcatraz”, BLOODRIDE continue a quickly developing pattern of releases inferior to the one that immediately preceded it. The band’s debut full-length, 2011’s “Crowned In Hell” showed significant promise. Influenced by classic thrash (an an apparent affinity for early German thrash in particular), “Crowned In Hell” was far from game changing, but was able to boast strong riffs, enveloping grooves and, perhaps most importantly, a clear and individualistic sound and identity for BLOODRIDE. Their followup album, 2014’s “Bloodmachine” saw a significant decline from the band’s debut. The energy slumped, the production got muddier, the riffs got less memorable and the songs became much less compelling. But there was still some remaining merritt in “Bloodmachine”. Some of the better qualities of “Crowned In Hell” managed to make it through into the band’s second full-length, however marred they ended up being. And that brings us to “Planet Alcatraz”.

It is somewhat difficult to believe that “Planet Alcatraz” is a studio produced album made by an experienced band three albums and now seventeen years into their career, and not a basement recording made a group of kids plugging their guitars directly into a computer. There is something uncompromisingly unpleasant about the album’s production and mixing, which might be largely a result of gratuitous over compression. All of the instruments somehow manage to bury each other, with nothing clearly cutting through the jumbled yet sterile sounding mess. The vocals are less buried, but sound awkwardly gainy and are not nearly as present in the mix as they should be. But, as numerous metal and punk releases over the years have taught us, poor production can be overlooked if the music is good enough, which is why it is such a pity that it isn’t.

The album’s opening track “S.O.B.” is bombarding and furious enough to satisfy any thrash fan, but lacks a single memorable riff or interesting moment, a motif repeated in the tracks “Rat Racer” and “War In Me”. The first of very few distinguished moments on the album arrives at the start of the album’s second and title track, “Planet Alcatraz”. The highly melodic guitar riff that begins that the track is actually rather catchy, and the thundering hits made by the rest of the band suggest they might actually know how to leave musical space (even they seem to avidly against doing this on most of the album). “Planet Alcatraz” keeps its strong sense of melody throughout (the only track to do so) and while it is certainly the strongest track on the album named after it, there is fairly little happening or changing in the three and a half minutes after its introduction, causing the track to grow fairly stale by its end.

The track “Beyond Repair” demonstrates an ability to build from an intro similar to “Planet Alcatraz”, but, like the title track, fails to maintain that interest once the song is in full force. The track “Baptizing Demons” avoids the album's main pitfall of monotony, with several distinct sections and changes in mood, pace and sonic quality, making it one of the stronger tracks on the album. However, the changes feel very abrupt and the execution often leaves much to be desired, making one wonder if the reason for the album’s dullness is because they find themselves struggling to pull off anything else.

Songwriting: 3
Originality: 3
Memorability: 2
Production: 2

1 Star Rating

2.Planet Alcatraz
3.War In Me
4.Beyond Repair
5.All We Deserve
6.Baptizing Demons
7.Grave Is Calling
8.Rat Racer
9.Storm Under My Skin
10.Marching Off To War
Esa Pennala - Bass, Backing Vocals
Simo Partanen - Guitar, Backing Vocals
Teemu Vähäkangas - Guitar, Backing Vocals
Jyrki Leskinen - Vocals
Petteri Lammassaari - Drums, Backing Vocals
Record Label: Inverse Records


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