Blindfolded and Led to the Woods – Nightmare Withdrawals [Things You Might Have Missed 2021]

Blindfolded and Led to the Woods is a band from New Zealand with a bit of a storied past. Originally starting off as a humor-centric deathcore group with bizarrely titled offerings like Armed to the Teeth with Jellybeans or My Vaseline Diaries, the song “Atop the Wings of a Magpie” changed everything. Dissonant interplay, ominous tempos, speedy riffs, and even a guest spot from Nile’s Karl Sanders replace mindless breakdowns and Psyopus-inspired wankery. Nightmare Withdrawals may not be their debut, but it’s their breakout album, and for good fucking reason.

The most appealing part of Nightmare Withdrawals is its balance. Clearly channeling acts like Replicant in a riffier interpretation of Ulcerate-inspired dissonant death metal, it kicks serious ass without sacrificing its psychedelic atmosphere. While tracks like “Black Air,” “The White of the Eyes,” and “Rorschach and Delirium” feature kickass riffs that can border on -core breakdown territory, they inject a palpable energy, keep the album grounded, and open the stage for the true headliners. The madness-inducing epics like “…And You Will Try to Speak,” “Atop the Wings of a Magpie,” and “Sic Mundus Creatus Est” offer constantly shifting rhythms and nearly post-rock-influenced plucking passages make them feel like journeys through fever dream landscapes of terror and beauty. The one-two punch of “Lucid Visitations” and the title track are particularly of note, as they make the best use of their uniquely disturbed guitar tone for the most memorable riffs of the album, while always utilizing shifty rhythms and calm passages and alternating tastefully between dissonance and melody.

The claustrophobic mixing reveals the self-released nature of Nightmare Withdrawals, but it works for the avant-garde nature of Blindfolded and Led to the Woods. While grounded nicely in riff-centricity, it nevertheless soars thanks to its stellar songwriting. Music of this nature, with the collision of several approaches, has a potential to sound mismatched and chaotic, but these New Zealanders balance it with grace and competence. Its more outlandish or inconsistent passages, such as the suddenly melodic plucking in “…And You Will Try to Speak” or the arrhythmic shifting in “Rorschach and Delirium” would be obvious detractors, but the aptly nightmarish fluidity in Nightmare Withdrawals allows this freedom.

At the end of the day, Blindfolded and Led to the Woods’ foray in Nightmare Withdrawals amid and between its various death metal-centric styles is tantalizing: while it feels firmly rooted in Ulcerate-esque dissonant tech, it incorporates enough -core and groove flourishes to keep it fresh and fun, while its atmospheric tendencies adhere to the pitch-black soundscape that remains as isolating and mysterious as the dark woods at midnight. In spite of it being their third full-length, it feels like a reset, a debut from a brand new act. Offering a tasty slather of songs balancing accessible and outlandish with professionalism and deft, the elephant in the room also posits the potential as to what these guys will be capable of next time around. While far from a debut, it feels like a reset from a band with the world as their dissonant oyster.

Tracks to Check Out: “Atop the Wings of a Magpie,” “Nightmare Withdrawals,” “Rorschach and Delirium”

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