Album Review: Blindfolded and Led to the Woods – Rejecting Obliteration

Album Review: Blindfolded and Led to the Woods - Rejecting Obliteration
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Blindfolded And Led To The Woods, or BALTTW for this review, are an exciting band right now if you ask me. They’re also one of the few notable bands to have really sprung out of New Zealand in the last 10 years; forming in 2010 out of Canterbury, the band’s discography is sparse yet every time they do seem to record something it always feels like whatever it is, has weight to it. The band released their first studio work, My Vaseline Diaries, in 2014 and ever since we’ve had a steady stream of material from the band. 2017 gave us Modern Adoxography; 2021, Nightmare Withdrawals; and now, we have the band’s fourth studio work, Rejecting Obliteration. Upon discovering the band through their most recent record during Lockdown I was more than keen to see how the band would evolve their sound and performance leading into this record. I was more than prepared for a ruthless yet erratic onslaught.

It always amazes me how diverse BALTTW’s songwriting is when riffs are concerned; if you’re looking for something conventional, something predictable, then this isn’t the album for you. BALTTW excel at playing extreme metal that refuses to be labelled or stuck within a box of four sides; within a single track the band can take us from chunky and crushing chords, blast beats to avant-garde playing that’s more ethereal, lighter on the senses where soloing possesses more tapping and left-field techniques to keep us on our toes. I wouldn’t outright dub the band as progressive for their songwriting has definitive direction and, while the riffs and tracks in question are naturally prone to evolution, the band don’t exert effort to deliberately take you on some swirling journey. The path remains clear, all the while the band throw up landmarks and the changing landscape as you move from start to finish.

But when the band want to remove the gloves, and truly let loose, the speed and intensity their sound can assume is utterly frightening. The band’s unorthodox approach to riffs and songwriting results in an experience that’s fearsome yet erratic, for you can have a firm idea what the band are doing before they launch a wrench at you and undergo a completely unique change-up. “Methlehem” is a prime example of this whereby the band will go absolutely nuts on their onslaught, but then they’ll come at you laterally with an aesthetic that’s the polar opposite of what they have previously performed with. Not many bands are willing to contradict their own established sound with something else so different and then state to the audience, that this is par for the course. The band’s capacity for intensity isn’t founded on how fast they can play alone, but how they intertwine all their instrumental elements on top of each other, crafting a runaway train of power that ls destined to plot straight through you.

Album Review: Blindfolded and Led to the Woods - Rejecting Obliteration

Something that might not become immediately apparent, owing to the band’s destructive nature, is how polished their performance really is. Firstly, the album art is stellar; Eliran Kantor’s style is beautifully specific, whenever his art is applied to an album you instantly know it’s him behind the canvas. Secondly, while we have this maelstrom of instrumentation and vocal deliveries going on at the same time, we recognise our ability to make out exactly what is being played, and how it all fits together which is to be commended, since BALTTW don’t play by conventional rules of songwriting. Their songwriting is far from neat and organised; resembling more a scatterbrained monstrosity than anything rationally coordinated. Yet, through quality mixing efforts and a production that, while not necessarily clean, at least smoothed the surface this record plays on, results in an album that allows the innate devastation to play out unobstructed.

After a slew of death metal records utilising an assortment of vocal styles, it’s refreshing to hear BALTTW use vocals that don’t sound too far removed from how you or I would sound if we were to attempt the gruff, bellowing vocal performance as used by the band herein. Amidst a band that do everything in their power to throw us off what we think is going to happen, and songwriting that throws orthodox structure out the window, the vocals here are quite the incremental force within the band. They’re easily the most grounding element the band give us, and just so too, since there’s little else regarding the record that suggest the band otherwise propagate anything resembling a firmly planted foundation. So, not only are the vocals clear and powerful for us to experience but, they’re an integral element at keeping us fixed and engaged on the band’s malleable performance.

In conclusion, Blindfolded And Led To The Woods’ latest demonstration of their unconventional take on extreme metal is a rollercoaster ride that will see us launched, dropped and taken to the side on numerous occasions. For a record that chooses to forgo most of the rules typical death metal firmly sticks to, Rejecting Obliteration goes by at a rapid pace. I believe this is down to how so little about this record is predictable and, even when the band throw us their seven minute album closer, their onslaught can be entirely up in the air as to what their performance may entail. Their 2021 release, Nightmare Withdrawals, really opened my eyes to this band but Rejecting Obliteration is where, to me, it’s abundantly apparent that level of quality isn’t a one-time thing. This record is a great example of a band who are technically proficient in their performance and songwriting, without it being obviously shoved in our face. They keep themselves planted to the ground and plan their songwriting around not only what they’re capable of but also how to best entertain their audience with what they’re regarded for bringing to their studio work. All in all, a fine release.

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