A few years back, I was fortunate enough to review By Blood Alone’s Eternally EP. Here is an excerpt of that review: “Like the legendary Bauhaus (arguably the most famous gothic rock band ever) stylistically mixed it up in the 80s, By Blood Alone have combined many different elements on Eternally, from rock, metal, doom, gothic romanticism, even a little pop, and created a tapestry that is undeniably gothic in style but also much more—if you can listen beyond the free-form, minimalist nature of the songs.”
And so comes Seas Of Blood, By Blood Alone’s first full-length album.
Not a lot has changed since Eternally, in terms of style. I’ve read some call this a progressive gothic album, but I disagree. The band still mixes it up pretty well, but they keep that musical sea a bit calmer than the term progressive suggests. The album does, however, boast some very interesting, style-shifting pieces that also have the metal and symphonic elements kicked up a few notches. This is immediately evident on the opening track, “Serpentarius,” which starts like a lost 80’s-metal classic before shifting into a keyboard-heavy masterpiece. “Wants Me Dead” (re-recorded from their 2004 demo) continues to carry the proverbial metal torch, its fire fed by John Graveside’s galloping “fist in the air” riffs. However, the song’s heaviness seems to come not from the guitar but from the subtle yet chilling keyboard work of Jenny Williamson. “Lovely Lies” and “Nidhogg” embrace a similar style, slowly exuding a sense of dread and foreboding.
With four of the album’s eight tracks walking a relatively similar path, it could have been very easy for the band to get bogged down in a well-traveled rut. Fortunately, By Blood Alone understand balance. The creepy “Undead Friend” plays like a burial waltz for the recently departed—if it were the 1800s. And the twisted and quirky “Little Lady Lillit”—with vocalist Cruella doing her sadistic best at sounding cute and downright devious—reminds me of Emilie Autumn’s post-Enchant foray into her self-dubbed Victoriandustrial style. A new recording of “Deny Yourself”—which was on the Eternally EP—is the album’s heaviest track, relying more on the crunch of guitar and double-bass than the atmospheric veil of keyboards. The epic—and arguably best—of the album is “Seas Of Blood,” a graceful and expansive track that evokes a sort of sad beauty. The music rises and falls with the slow intensity of an ocean swell, Cruella’s voice lightly but passionately rocking on its surface.
By Blood Alone isn’t a flawless band. Part of me wishes the guitars had a fatter, heavier tone, and others have mentioned that Cruella’s vocals aren’t as strong as some others. While those might be valid complaints for most bands, I think it actually adds to the character of the band’s music. There’s something real and warm in its imperfections. And there’s nothing bad about this band, especially when it comes to the songs. A band like Linkin Park might have the luxury of spending two years doing pre-production, two more years of studio recordings and even more overdubs, for what ends up a thirty-minute album with not a note out of place, but it loses the human element in the process—it lacks the passion and defined character of something real. While not flawless, By Blood Alone is a band that is nearly so, in spite—or possibly because—of its flaws. Seas Of Blood is an outstanding album.
Jericho Hill Records | 2007 | 8 tracks (50:19) | File Under: Gothic Metal
Originally appeared in Shock Totem #1, July 2009.