/ Death Metal

Blindfolded and Led to the Woods: Modern Adoxography

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Christchurch, New Zealand five-piece Blindfolded and Led to the Woods (BALTTW) are a technically adept death metal band. Except when they’re busy being a raging grindcore outfit. But that’s only when they’re not being a no-holds-barred mathcore group. Honestly, at this point, BALTTW really aren’t this, that, or the other. And that’s exactly what makes their sophomore album, Modern Adoxography, a success.

When the release of Modern Adoxography was first announced, I had no intention of writing about it. That’s not because I dislike BALTTW, as such; they just don’t feature on my playlist. I’d listened to the band’s debut full-length, My Vaseline Diaries, and it delivered plenty of intricate death metal at a neck-wrecking velocity. But I’m just not that interested in hyper-speed technical death metal or brutal breakdowns.

I generally find tech-heavy death metal tedious. Or, if I’m being really honest, a bit fucking self-congratulatory. But I understand all the reasons why people love it. I just prefer old school death metal. You know, the murky, slow-baked and swampy kind.

Modern Adoxography definitely isn’t old school. Or murky. Or slow-baked. Or swampy. It’s a thoroughly modern metal album, through and through, and it’s bursting at the seams with progressive musicality. In theory, I should be running a mile. But here’s the thing, BALTTW display such dizzying proficiency that it’s hard not to be awed by it. More importantly though, BALTTW have just thrown away their previous songwriting rulebook for their new album.

This time around, the band sidestep strict genre signifiers to deliver a more adventurous album fuelled by maniacal creative energy. Much of Modern Adoxography defies easy categorisation –– aside from mindfuckingly intense. And dynamic/crushing tracks like “Licking a Landmine” and “A Restless Transplant” smash together multiple subgenres with skull-cracking glee.

Elsewhere, songs like “Meth Tooth” or “Dust Between Bones” twist themselves violently inside and out with brain-scrambling savagery, while their meticulous (avant-jazz worthy) complexity maintains a sense of fierce physicality.

That palpable physicality matters too. Because overly technical metal gets pretty fucking dull pretty fucking quickly when egocentric expertise obscures genuine emotionality. (And proficiency doesn’t necessarily equate to ingenious songwriting either.)

That’s not an issue for BALTTW though –– at least not on album #2.

The band deliver multi-faceted songs with machinelike precision, but that all-important human factor is always there, front and centre. I’d argue that’s because Modern Adoxography was recorded live with “no drum triggers, no samples, no digital amp modelling, and no click tracks”. In effect, the album’s so engagingly visceral because all the band had to be so present, committed, and on form during recording.

Obviously, some people don’t really care about recording techniques: they just care about the final results. But, to my mind, capturing all that insanity/intensity is a huge achievement for BALTTW, and it represents significant artistic progress as well.

It’s certainly a testament to the band’s abilities that they can deliver their music with such decimating focus. Although, that’s not necessarily going to make Modern Adoxography any more alluring if you’re already weary of jam-packed and technically OTT songs.

One thing that might also prove a stumbling block is that the album is constructed of a lot of jarring and rapidly firing components. And sometimes those components don’t entirely mesh into a cohesive whole on every track.

One thing’s for certain, Modern Adoxography is a challenging release. But I also can’t help thinking that it feels more accessible because of its wider crossover of styles. If I was one of those writers who provide painstaking track-by-track reviews, I’m sure I’d quickly run out of descriptors trying to note all the frenetic elements on battering tracks like “The Owl and the Great Oak”, “The Earwig Part II” or “Hospital Bed White”. And that highlights the more eclectic arc of Modern Adoxography.

The album’s songs simply explore extremity in more intriguing ways. Harsh vocals, full-throttle riffs, in-your-face bass, and pummelling percussion are all here in abundance. But the deranged arrangements mean the songs sound more diverse than they did in the past -- even if they’re all linked by that exact same chaotic complexity.

(And that’s why it makes perfect sense that BALTTW are opening for the similarly hyperactive The Dillinger Escape Plan on their final NZ tour this month.)

In some ways — well, in most ways, really — I feel wholly unqualified to be writing about BALTTW. I mean, I freely admit that the band haven’t occupied much of my time, and I’m no expert on where they’ve come from. But Modern Adoxography is inventive and exploding with frenzied energy, and I’m absolutely interested in where BALTTW are headed to now.

Modern Adoxography is an ultra-aggressive onslaught backed by truly accomplished musicianship. And BALTTW have taken a gigantic creative step forward on the album. Best of all, Modern Adoxography features more imaginative experimentation and it delivers a lot more intensity. Meaning BALTTW are now a far more original and enthralling band.