Internal Bleeding, New York stalwarts and influential heavyweights of the early slam scene, rebounded from a lengthy recording hiatus with impressive comeback album Imperium in 2014. The old dogs showed some of the young pups and emerging bands in the modern slam death scene how it was done. Importantly, the band sounded rejuvenated and willing to mildly deviate from their tried and true formula without messing too much with their well-established sound. Some four years have elapsed and Internal Bleeding return with their sixth LP, Corrupting Influence. Unfortunately, there’s a tragic side story around the album’s conception, bringing a deeper emotional depth to Corrupting Influence. In 2017, founding member, powerhouse drummer, and veteran New York firefighter Bill Tolley sadly passed away while bravely performing his duties during a complicated emergency. Determined to press on and honor Bill’s memory, Internal Bleeding forged ahead with their latest opus of slammy, hardcore-tinged death.
I got around to Imperium far too late last time around, despite my familiarity with their earlier releases and general affection for the New York death metal scene. However, it has garnered plenty of airplay since its release, so with Al Kikuras unavailable, I jumped at the chance to get my slam on. While some modern slam could be accused of being too extreme and brutal for the average death metal fan, Internal Bleeding hit a sweet spot between testosterone-fueled blunt force trauma and fat accessible grooves and trademark slams, brutal enough but not overly so. Corrupting Influence continues the trend and doesn’t differ greatly from Internal Bleeding‘s extensive body of work, though it’s a less adventurous and more straightforward modern example of the band’s second phase when stacked up against the imposing Imperium. This may be cause for some mild disappointment for those enamored with Imperium, but shouldn’t deter listeners from an album that is pure Internal Bleeding all the way.
“Focus” is loaded with burly aggression, fat grooves, and some deftly melodic guitar flourishes. Although it’s not one of the album’s standout tunes, it offers an accurate blueprint of the Internal Bleeding sound. And frankly, if you flat-out detest this song, Internal Bleeding are unlikely to win you over. Otherwise, it’s a solid jam and lead-off single that sets the tone for the album. Internal Bleeding go at it hammer and tongs for 36 pummeling minutes of no-frills, tough guy death metal with a minimum of fuss or flash. Certain songs raise the bar slightly but Corrupting Influence is marked by solid consistency, without ever quite blowing me away. “Final Justice” snarls, blasts and slams with sledgehammer intensity, carrying extra weight as it signals the final studio recording with Tolley on drums. Other highlights include the stampeding, riffy monster “Litany of Insincerity,” featuring an inspired and guttural guest turn by former vocalist Frank Rini, and the addictive, churning force of “Surrounded From the Inside,” sounding like a tune tailor-made for an intense gym workout.
There’s little to dislike about Corrupting Influence if you happen to be a longtime fan of the band and their style of slam-oriented death. The songs are all solid, if unspectacular, the musicianship tight and accomplished, and the thick mid-paced pummels and hefty slams are on point. Combined with solid production, an old school streetwise aesthetic, and youthful exuberance from an underrated veteran act, Internal Bleeding gets the job done with typical dedication and a professional, no-fuss approach to their craft. Special mention to drummer Kyle Eddy who fills Tolley’s sizable shoes with a sturdy, tight battering behind the kit. Sole original member Chris Pervelis and co-guitarist Chris McCarthy dish up plenty of meaty, headbangable riffage and occasional forays into more melodic and soulful territory, such as the gorgeous climactic passages of the title track.
Internal Bleeding stand and deliver with a solid, workmanlike collection of trademark songs that hit with the force of a Mac truck and subtlety of a heavyweight boxer. It’s catchy, destructive, and oh so groovy, showcasing the band’s willingness to push through in the face of tragedy to persevere and deliver a rock-solid Internal Bleeding album. Corrupting Influence is exactly that, hardly exciting or innovative, especially when stacked up against the more adventurous Imperium, but a satisfying slog nevertheless.