ALBUM REVIEW: Blowsight – Destination Terrorville
Blowsight are a band who describe themselves as ‘pop punk metal’ and have, in their time, covered both Britney Spears (‘Toxic’) and Lady Gaga (‘Poker Face’).
Already, there’s a lot not to like. But stay with me.
This is not a band for those of you who belt out Madonna songs when you think no one is listening, but spend the rest of the time telling people that you only ever listen to Slayer. Instead, Blowsight are a band for those of you who will acknowledge that sometimes, just sometimes, the world of pop music does have its merits.
Maybe it’s that catchy tune you heard on the radio and can’t stop humming (presumably when you were cheating on Braingell), or that one song that your wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/sibling/parent finds they can play without driving you to distraction – all of us have that guilty pleasure.
But Destination Terrorville is not an album that will you give anything to feel guilty about.
Here is a band that are able to take the best bits of the pop and pop-punk worlds, and dispense with all the posturing, self-promotion and scene-following that are so-often the reserve of those who find themselves lacking in musical ability or song-writing talent.
What you are left with is an instantly accessible sound that is nevertheless varied and heavy enough to warrant repeated listens. Honest.
Destination Terrorville was originally self-released in 2007 when the band were still un-signed. The above cover art is from last year’s re-release, which followed their signing with Sony/BMG.
The band are not easy to categorise, but with the plethora of supposed genre-hopping acts out there nowadays, it’s worth narrowing things down a little.
Let’s start with what they’re not. This is not ‘pop metal’, where studio executives inject a dose of ‘manufactured heaviness’ into a band that would otherwise just be one in a crowd of sound-alikes. Whilst the sound isn’t a million miles away from bands such as Nuclear Blast’s Sonic Syndicate (whose metal-by-numbers and pop song choruses I find so thoroughly irritating), Blowsight combine distinctive styles in a manner that seems far more natural. The result is a body of songs that are nearly as diverse as the band’s style is distinctive.
At no point do you get the impression that you’ve heard anything before, as the band don’t appear to have a fall-back position when everything else fails (such as the ‘beat-downs’ favoured by so many metalcore bands). Rather than staging a dramatic contest between different genres, Blowsight are presenting us with sound that consists of a true merger of musical styles. To this end, blast-beats are used sparingly, and the only real stand-out similarities between the album tracks are the thick, heavy bass lines that do so much to stamp the band with metal authenticity.
Take ‘If You Were Me’. Within in the first thirty sounds as if it’s going to develop into a radio-friendly ballad, but then in comes a heavy base line and the urgency begins to build. Once we’ve been treated to the first rendition of the soaring chorus, everything goes up a notch once more, but not without losing any its initial emotional honesty. What lesser bands would have made into a pretty solid, but one-dimensional ballad, Blowsight have made into a stand-out track that should have widespread appeal.
Of the ‘more metal’ songs on the album, another stand-out is ‘Thought Of Bride’, which begins with a heavy guitar intro accompanied by some intense drumming, and includes some growled vocals. But this is the one track that does have some clear contrasting sections. The drums quickly become much simpler than they started (although there are a few flourishes later on), and clean vocals still dominate.
There are moments in other songs (‘In This Position’, ‘Terrorville’, ‘All That Is Wrong’) where lead singer Nick Red almost sounds Hetfield-esque (Metallica) in that he often ends a verse (or even a note) more aggressively than he began (a clear change from their earlier material). Definitely one to watch. But this is, of course, where the comparisons must end. The vocals, in particular, take more inspiration from the acceptable side of punk than they do heavy metal.
But Blowsight are definitely not a band that should be mistaken for ‘pop punk’. The heavier moments are not just for effect. There is enough variety in the album to demonstrate a great deal of song-writing ability, and although this is definitely not a guitar album, it’s far from being made up of mindless thrashing or being solely dependent on Nick’s vocal skills. Add thoughtful lyrics and balanced levels of aggression to catchy sing-along-moments, and you get a band that are a million miles away from the likes of ‘American Idiots’ Green Day.
In many ways it’s easy to just think of them as an alternative rock band, but one who do not seek to cling jealously to the ‘alternative’ label. It’s possible to think of Blowsight as a more contemplative and simply ‘less angry’ version of Californian hardcore/metalcore band Atreyu (based on the more mainstream sound to be found on the latter’s two most recent albums). Less dramatic certainly, but perhaps it all comes together a little more convincingly. (And I say that as a big Atreyu fan).
Destination Terrorville is definitely an album that will appeal to everyone, and no one. Meaning that it will be difficult to determine exactly which ‘type’ of fans the band will end up attracting. Luckily, they do have one high-profile fan in Scorpions drummer James Kottak, who took them on the road with his solo project earlier this year.
Then came the big news: the opening slot on the Scorpions European Tour. Unfortunately a change in plans (blamed on “production reasons”) has meant that they’ve been removed from the tour, and have been cruelly denied the opportunity to continue expanding their fanbase. Not that this is likely to dull their enthusiasm.
Blowsight are a band that revel in their underground status, and make this abundantly clear in ‘The Simple Art (Of Making You Mine)’, one of their more ‘pop’ offerings. The song features some clever, tongue-in-cheek lyrics about the ‘art’ of attracting new fans, dispensing with clowns in order to “dance around like Timberlake”, and spending any money they could have made on “the new Nintendo”. This is clearly not a band who are taking things too seriously.
This is also apparent in their aforementioned choice of cover songs (which haven’t found their way onto the album). Whilst their cover of ‘Toxic’ is far better than the Static Lullaby version that some of you may have heard, it’s their cover of ‘Poker Face’ that really demonstrates how Blowight are able to seamlessly merge pop, punk, and metal all into one catchy, aggressive, multi-layered sound.
Leaving these cover versions as internet rarities rather than bonus tracks was probably a wise decision, as nothing should really detract from the quality of the original material on offer here. If you like what you hear (whether you’ve picked up the album or not), it’s worth checking the band’s MySpace occasionally for new tracks, as they’re not shy about sharing material.
If I have any complaints about the album it’s that the band decided to both open and close the album with re-recordings (‘She-Devil’ and ‘Bus Girl’). Sure, these songs have only ever been available on the internet (I discovered them on garageband.net, which now appears to have died), but it’s an uncomfortable experience hearing a re-recording of a song you love at the best of the times, let alone when you’re nervous/excited about a debut album.
Of course, this won’t bother the vast majority of people picking up the CD, but the fact that the re-recordings are less visceral and raw than the original is a little disappointing. But that’s the nature of progress! And this is definitely a band in the ascendancy.
In the end, I can scarcely do more to recommend Destination Terrorville. It simply has no weak spots. Albums that have no truly bad songs are relatively common; albums where the quality is so consistently high that it’s difficult to pick even a top four or five are not. I could easily talk about each of the album tracks, but I’ll limit myself to providing one more link, this time to Blowsight’s only video release so far:
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the future. (Well, perhaps not, but it’s a lot of fun nonetheless).
– Phil Henderson
‘Nick Red’ – Vocals, Guitars
‘Fabz’ – Drums, Vocals
‘Seb’ – Guitars, Vocals
‘Mini’ – Bass, Vocals
County of Origin: Sweden