Review: Bleak – No Light, No Tunnel
Artists seem to take at least a year to recover between album releases, if not longer. Syracuse, NY’s Bleak are bucking that trend by gifting us a new album within less than a year since the release of their debut album, We Deserve Our Failures. And it’s not as if they’ve been silent up to this point either. Since 2016 has started, Bleak has put out a handful of releases in advance of their latest, No Light, No Tunnel. It’s an impressive amount of output in a short amount of time.
Leading up to No Light, No Tunnel, Bleak have primarily delivered a brand of sludgy hardcore that most certainly qualifies as what one would consider “heavy”. The new album sees them adding new elements to their sound that make their presence known on the first track, “Teeth.” The opening portion of the song sounds like Snapcase and Disembodied got into a donnybrook outside a local pub with a noisy guitar phrasing backed by the stomping of the rhythm section. That only lasts briefly as Bleak picks up the pace by launching into some punk/hardcore thrashiness followed by a short fit of blast beats. Right now Terence Fletcher from the movie Whiplash is thinking, “Hold up there Bleak, that’s not quite your tempo.”
God damnit, you couldn’t wait 28 seconds for Bleak to drop the hammer so you could take out your frustrations out on the sheetrock? The ruckus you so desire is brought to you plenty here and beyond. The proverbial rug gets pulled out from under you without warning in short order as Bleak reminds you that they are more than capable of emptying out your insides through the practice of scraping and clawing that results in an open wound. “Teeth” sways back and forth between bedlam and the speedy elements that together make you feel like you are getting stampeded by an entire NFL team breaking in their test cleats during training camp. The addition of the variations in pace are what balances out the attack on this record. Bleak experiments with a variety of up tempo rhythms to counter that destroy-the-concrete ruggedness that has been their calling card on previous releases.
Bleak picks their spot,s and it results in maximum effect when they chime in with the unabashed heaviness that makes one’s jaw separate from the rest of the skull. “Cut Throat Rapture” follows the opening track’s lead by unloading a barrage of distraught guitar antics supported by a rhythm section that fortifies the foundation while letting the guitars run wild. The unpleasant grinding guitar screeches that start off “No Time” sounds like two rusty metallic gears hating each other’s insides, and things only escalate from there. We had a discussion about moments recently on this site, and I’ll be damned if all the craziness that leads up to the distorted bass break and decent into chaos to close out “Needles” is the type of stuff that crushes your bones and denies you calcium (Head over to The Sludgelord and stream the track here). The album closes out with “Fuck Your God,” a very fitting way to filter out all the unpleasantness that has transpired in the previous nine tracks. It repeatedly digs deeper and deeper until finally letting loose in much the same way the album began. Out of all the tracks on this album, only “Crowley” maintains a slow and methodical pace throughout. To their credit, Bleak has always been adept at dragging their listener face first into asphalt, slow-burn style. By experimenting and mixing things up, they’ve added a new dynamic to an already successful formula. This album just squashes your guts out like Jeff Goldblum was an invertebrate for real in The Fly.
4/5 Toilets Ov Hell
No Light, No Tunnel will be available July 1st in multiple formats through Hex Records. Like Bleak on Facebook to confirm that you like having your ears amputated repeatedly. Bleak is playing shows relentlessly, possibly until the sun burns out. Be sure to catch them live so you can see their bass player Matt shadow box his Ampeg rig, their drummer Cam try and put his drum set on the disabled list, their guitar player TJ spew noisy sludge from his six string and their vocalist Mike try to blow out PA systems with his sonic shrieks. Make a point to catch them if they are coming to your area.
*= w CROWHURST
8/26 Detroit MI. The Sanctuary. (w Die Choking)
Sun 8/28 Minneapolis MN. Poser Compound.
Tue 8/30 Missoula MT. Cameron Bleakpage
8/31 Boise ID. Wastelander Studios.
*9/1 Seattle WA. venue TBA.
*9/2 Ashland OR. Base Kamp Awesome.
*9/4 Oakland CA. venue TBA
*9/5 Los Osos CA. Sweet Springs Saloon.
9/6 Los Vegas NV. Double Down Saloon.
9/7 Salt Lake City UT. Diabolical Records.
9/8 Denver CO. Flux Capacitor.
9/10 Ithaca NY. The Haunt. (w Pig Destroyer/Secret Cutter)