Bushcraft, the first album by Vancouver’s Baptists, was a record that I fancied quite a bit. Clearly inspired by the likes of Converge and Botch, the band delivered some fine metallic hardcore with various subtle influences mixed in, from crust to noise rock. It was raw, angry music, just as expected from bands in the genre (and from comparable groups on Southern Lord). A year later, they’re back with their sophomore release, again produced by Converge’s Kurt Ballou and promising “fast, exhilarating music of rage, oozing with genuine raw emotion and punk rock fury.”
For the most part, they keep their promises. Bloodmines is quite similar in its character to their debut and it retains the same sense of deadliness and destruction. The style that Baptists embrace doesn’t leave a lot of room for variations, so it’s completely OK for their new album to sound almost like a B-side to their first LP. Their approach works, so why change it? The album consists of 11 brutal, aggressive, intense tracks that are all condensed into just 25 minutes. It’s an energetic bomb that threatens to blow the listener’s mind. The record opens with an atmospheric intro, “Chamber,” and then proceeds to smack you in the head with “Wanting.” Songs like that one, alongside the punkish “String Up” and grindcore-based “Closed Ports,” are triumphs of total obliteration and are sure to make listeners thrash around the house and destroy furniture.
But there are also moments when the brutality stands down and the band turns to slower, restrained grooves on tunes such as “Vistas,” which is more in the vein of traditional hardcore. They even manage to throw in something akin to doom on title track “Bloodmines.” You’d expect this slower material to be a drag, but these tunes are done well, sound surprisingly good, and hold their own amongst the other, blazingly fast pieces. The songs, whether fast or slow, seem to flow into one another and the short length of the album ensures that the riffs and concepts remain fresh. Worth noting is that the band tends to be at their best when they successfully merge their inspirations on the same track. All the different styles and influences, a touch of melody, rhythmic variations, and aggressiveness, mashed together on pieces such as “Calling” and “For Profit” are a welcome bonus. And just as that those two closing tunes help you recover from the blows dealt by the music, the album is over. What can you do other than start listening to it again and again and again…
It’s that promise of “genuine raw emotion” where I feel the record sometimes misses the mark. Yes, the album is aggressive and up front, but some of the songs fail to connect with the listener or leave a lasting impression. I’m not completely sure whether it’s a result of the edgy sound of the drums and guitars, the changes in the production that made the music less full and somewhat brittle, or something else entirely. In that regard, Bushcraft did a better job. The drumming, as well, feels a bit off and overly simplistic this time around, which is weird considering Nick Yacyshyn’s prowess. The lyrics, unsurprisingly, are filled with bitterness and they’re delivered with venom and pure rage. Besides the aforementioned, tiny production problems, the riffs are good and Danny Marshall’s guitar sounds mighty, discordant when needed, buzzing and dirty. Oh, and Sean Hawryluk’s bass is something special, tinted with so much distortion it makes it sound like an instrument invented in the depths of hell (or a suburban area of Vancouver).
For those who liked Baptists’ first album, picking up Bloodmines should be a no brainer. The band hasn’t backed off even one inch. For everyone else, if you want to fry your mind by means of aggressive, infuriated, and fast music, check out “Calling,” “Harm Induction,” and “Vistas” to get a taste of a band that keeps (most) of its promises and delivers simple, honest hardcore.