Nov 11, 2013

How To Say Goodbye To A Band: Bleeding Through

By Ian Cory

Photo by Tibor Kuijs

Growing up in New York City made me a spoiled brat culturally. If a movie was having a limited release, I could definitely catch it in at least one theater in Manhattan. If a European band was doing select dates in the US, New York was definitely on the tour itinerary. Big or small, anything important to pop culture was going to roll into my hometown eventually, and from there I was only a short trip on the subway away from soaking it in. When I moved to Chicago for school I felt ready for just about any conversation about music that anyone could start with me. The combination of my coastal elitism and 18-year-old arrogance must have been intolerable, but luckily it was quickly burst by the realization that without a car, there was a good chance that I was going to miss a lot of good shows in the Midwest. But growing doesn’t just bring you humility; it also makes you watch all your favorite bands from high school break up.

Two nights before the first date of his final tour as the lead singer of Bleeding Through, Brandan Schieppati posted a lengthy and bitter rant aimed at everything from the band’s former record labels to “die hard supporters [turned] die hard haters when a new trend came through” to his blog*. After reaffirming his reasons for playing music in the first place, Schieppati spent the remainder of the essay lambasting fair-weather fans for complaining about the band not playing in their town. Ultimately, Schieppati is correct when he asserts that the band doesn’t really have much control over where they play and that it mostly comes down to where promoters are able to drum up the most interest for the band. On the other hand, reading all of this did little but throw salt into the wound of watching one of my favorite bands from my teenage years slowly lose their spark before breaking up.

This shouldn’t have really been a surprise though. Bleeding Through are dying as they lived; filled to the brim with rage, loss and aggression both guided and misguided. As one of the first Metalcore bands that I started listening to, Bleeding Through served as a bridge from the cartoonish Nu-Metal bands that I worshipped into something more musically complicated and culturally specific. Bands like Korn or Slipknot were massive institutions with bizarre cult-like fans, but Bleeding Through felt like normal people with real grievances. Listening to 2003’s This Is Love This Is Murderous on repeat in my room, I felt I could hold the whole of Schieppati’s agony and despair in my hands and that by doing so, the band would do the same for me. I felt like Bleeding Through were mine. Consequently I did everything you’d expect from a kid with a brand new favorite band. Their lyrics adorned the margins of my notebooks, as reminders that someone else “got it,” and the contents of my AIM away messages, as both a flag for fellow fans and a warning sign to those not in the know. I played their songs for anyone who would listen and many who would not. And most importantly I went to a lot of shows, no matter who else would come with me or what other bands were playing. At one show**, I was lucky enough to bump into Brandan Schieppati after their set and express my gratitude for his work, and he was able to come across as gracious and kind without losing an ounce of the badass mystique that I had built around him.

That aura dissipates instantly when I listen to Bleeding Through now. Though much of their material still gets my blood pumping and my eyes bugged out in the throes of some serious riff face, much of their lyrical content is kind of hard to stomach. In Schieppati’s pursuit to avoid writing “hardcore about hardcore” as he put it in Wolves Among Sheep, a documentary about the band that sadly was filmed and released prior to their dramatic split with Trustkill Records in 2009, he focused his lyrics on a failed relationship that sent his life into a tailspin. Over the course of the band’s first four records he explored this topic from nearly ever angle imaginable. On Portrait Of The Goddess he frames his devotion in religious terms while also speaking frankly about his fragility on album highlight “Turns Cold To The Touch.” 2003’s This Is Love, This Is Murderous lives up to its name by using exclusively violent imagery to get the point across, with results that range from being painfully melodramatic (“On Wings Of Lead”) to uncomfortably close to misogyny (“Murder By Numbers”). By 2008’s Declaration the band had broadened its scope both sonically, incorporating even more symphonic elements and the early seeds of the Djent movement, and lyrically, shifting the targets of their rage to the record label that was holding their royalties hostage and the host of bands making a killing by ripping off the sound that Bleeding Through had pioneered. After this landmark record, Bleeding Through released two more albums, but it was clear they had little left to prove and were quickly running out of steam. Their final record, The Great Fire, was made up of songs that barely clocked in at three minutes and featured none of the melodic ingenuity that had formerly balanced their aggressive edge.

When I heard that the band was calling it quits, the emptiness that I felt wasn’t a disappointment but an odd relief. I hadn’t seen the band live in years, and as much as I respected their perseverance in the face of changing times, the fact of the matter was that I was no longer the kid that memorized every word of “For Love And Failing” by listening to it between classes. But every time a song of their's comes up on shuffle, I get to glimpse however briefly into that kid’s world. Not knowing how to drive meant I had no chance of giving the band a goodbye in person, but that limitation has also given me some of my best memories with their music. I remember waking up just before dawn, strapping on my headphones and shutting out the chaos of New York in the morning, cranking the music to deafening volumes in a crude attempt to keep my eyes open on the train. And I remember the equally lonely trips back home from shows, my ears ringing, my body sore, and my heart content with the knowledge that I knew something that my fellow late night travelers on those near empty subway platforms did not: I knew about Bleeding Through.

*Technically speaking, it’s the blog of his gym, Rise Above Fitness, which is home to “The Warrior Show” one of the most bizarre and sublime pieces of media to result from the metalcore scene.

**In which Bleeding Through opened for Saosin and Senses Fail. The mid-00’s were a strange time.

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