In years of playing in and going to see what we’ll charitably describe as ‘underground’ bands, I think the most misguided thing I ever saw was a brand new act, trying to curry hype and favour, describe themselves as a ‘Manchester Supergroup’. This was purely on the grounds that they, like just about every other musician playing heavy music in the city, had been or were in other bands that you might have heard of, and thus they were instantly a phenomenon and must be immediately given the hype and obsequience from fans and promoters alike that the band thought they were due, despite nobody having heard any of their tracks.
Hubristic PR missteps aside however, the idea that a band, prior to releasing a note of music, could be more worthy of your attention than others, and what they have to say musically is more relevant than others, isn’t a totally redundant one. Some bands just have an aura, a vibe of ‘this is worth your time’ from the very beginning. Leeched were always one of those bands.
Bursting into Manchester a few years ago, the then trio played a ferocious brand of short, sharp metallic Hardcore shocks that ran in direct contrast to well established Stoner and Doom, Death Metal and Hardcore scenes, and the band instantly established themselves as a must see act. With a solid work ethic, regular releases and tours, choice support slots and absolutely nailing the merch and social media games, they were soon plucked from the underground and propelled to bigger things. Now under the wing of Tone MGMT and Prosthetic Records, we’re an EP and two albums, not to mention two additional members further down the line, and To Dull The Blades Of Your Abuse unleashes a huge evolution for the band.
The distorted, pitch shifted spoken word that opens the album sets an unsettling, unflinching scene, rapidly drowned out by an oppressive wall of harsh noise as drums, bass and a squealing atonal noise that could be a synth or a guitar processed to within an inch of its life, gives an immediate and overall effect of discomfort and disorientation. This eventually cedes to a relentless yet succinct almost verse chorus passage, which is difficult to listen to, but simultaneously engaging and… I love it.
Leeched have never been ones to drag out a passage, or a song and this is no different. A blow by blow description of this album could never work because there’s so much going on and so many mutations and changes. What’s fascinating to me is the way that, on the face of it, disparate elements to each track form a cohesive whole that continues to again evolve from track to track. This is best described as a really, really fucking good progressive, yet brutal Death Metal band filtered through Converge and Glassjaw, and then filtered again through Full Of Hell to give something truly special.
Those name checks are not (just) lazy comparisons, by the way, they’re touchstones to give a context to this release for someone as yet unfamiliar with the band, because, real talk, there’s no doubt the scale and sheer power of this release is going to carry them to new listeners, and they’re a promise of the potential Leeched have and maybe even the levels they could reach, if everything falls into the right place for them.
Let Me Die showcases both extremes, as a disorientating start and foreboding build, really hammers home the bands ability to create an atmosphere and bring it to a climax without veering into Post-Metal clichés…
You hear the band’s Death Metal roots distinctly in the squeals that punctuate the riffs of second track The Grey Tide and more generally in the overall chainsaw guitar tone which is enhanced by recently added member and engineer Joe Clayton’s absolute mastery of capturing the finest hm-2 tones.
As an aside, Clayton is also in Pijn, one of Manchester’s other absolute must hear/see bands, and has solid form recording metallic Hardcore bands, like the sadly missed Pine Barrens and Esoteric Youth, under his engineering belt as well as a solid list of more recent releases at No Studio, a place that doesn’t get anything like the hype or the love it deserves, given the quality and regularity of releases coming out that have been recorded there.
I digress, if you’ve been a fan of the band from the beginning, you’ll see there’s so much evolution from their initial style on display here. Harsh noise, Ministry-esque electronic drum sounds, and glorious distortion in places you wouldn’t necessarily expect it, like on an acoustic kick drum, this all combines to give a much more industrial sounding Leeched. Tracks like Now It Ends show this off to the fullest, showcasing a more mature band who can build a slower atmospheric passage just as well as the savage grinding blasts that open following track Earth And Ash. Towards the end of the album, penultimate track Let Me Die showcases both extremes, as a disorientating start and foreboding build, really hammers home the bands ability to create an atmosphere and bring it to a climax without veering into Post-Metal clichés. The new edge to the sound is a logical step forwards from a band that have always pushed the boundaries and always sounded like they take inspiration from the grimier parts of their home town, lyrically and sonically.
Soooooo… conclusions? This is not an album for the faint-hearted. This is not an album for stoned nodders looking for something to soundtrack their journey to the riff filled land. This is not even an album to soundtrack crowdkilling beatdowns or siqq slams. Reading back over the review, I realise it would be really easy for you to say ‘Chris, you’ve just described a Full Of Hell album…’ and maybe that’s in some ways accurate. But also it’s very much not. There’s no denying the superficial similarity between the bands and the influence that FOH will have had on To Dull The Blades Of Your Abuse but there’s more than enough distinction, evolution and originality for it to stand on its own two feet as a shining example of what Leeched can achieve.
This album is going to hit end of year lists. This album is a statement of intent, and will rightfully propel Leeched ever further into the consciousness of heavy music fans worldwide. There’s not much more to say. Listen to it.
Scribed by: Chris Wood