Essential Listening: The Blood Brothers – Young Machetes

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The Blood Brothers redefined the limits of post-hardcore with their final album Young Machetes, working in elements of mathcore, punk, noise rock, pop and more. The bands style frequently featured dueling vocals with vastly different delivery, presented over the top of rapidly changing instrumental styles. What makes this particular album special in my opinion, is the perfect balance that the band managed to strike between unbelievable catchiness on one side and harsh, experimental chaos and raw energy on the other. Young Machetes is such a unique piece of music that it belongs on any good essential listening list.

Artist: The Blood Brothers
Album: Young Machetes
Label: Epitaph
Release Date: October 10, 2006
Location: Seattle, Washington

Written by James Sweetlove

This album may be almost 20 years old and incredibly obscure (despite being released on Epitaph), but its one that I’ve been listening to for well over a decade on a very regular basis and I think that the world would be a better place if more people did the same. So on that note I’m going to tell you why Young Machetes was the perfect end to an impactful ten year career from Seattle underground act The Blood Brothers.

To start with, you probably need to know a little bit about the band. The Blood Brothers were an American post-hardcore band which formed in Seattle’s Eastside suburbs in 1997. Having said that, calling them post-hardcore is a massive oversimplification of their sound, which while based in post-hardcore, featured elements of mathcore, punk, noise rock, pop and more. The bands style frequently featured dueling vocals with vastly different delivery, presented over the top of rapidly changing instrumental styles.

The band’s vocals are definitely one of the elements that sets them apart from their peers. Jordan Blilie‘s vocals specifically are unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. They sit at such a high pitch and have a tone that’s part way between glam rock, pop and post-punk and can be utterly beautiful when clean or grating and biting when he takes them to a harsh shrieked place. In contrast Johnny Whitney gives us a flatter, more monotoned gothic/post-punk vocal style that really balances things out with Jordan’s offering. When the two harmonize it sounds fantastic, as there is a perfect balance struck between their two vastly different styles.

What makes this particular album special in my opinion, is the perfect balance that the band managed to strike between unbelievable catchiness on one side and harsh, experimental chaos and raw energy on the other. There’s a little something here for everyone and yet its so strange and out there, that only a very certain type of person will really connect with it. Its a sweet spot in the middle of it all that makes it such a perfect album, but also prevents it from ever achieving popular mainstream acclaim.

I think the perfect example of this is the song is track 4 Camouflage, Camouflage. It has such catchy moments that you could easily see it playing on popular alternative playlists, but then the harsher moments take away that accessibility for many listeners. Trust me, this is one of the least harsh tracks on the album too. I should also note that this is one of my favourite tracks on the album.

Then you have other songs like the album’s main single Laser Life that sit in a far more balanced spot, sharing the load of harsh and catchy. It starts off so bouncy and inviting, but as the song progresses, harsher elements are brought into the mix. The thing that makes this band so great is that the catchier elements don’t go anywhere when the harsher elements arrive, they simply combine in the mix, so you get this wild and massive sound that ahs upbeat beats with piano and horns over the top of guitar and shrieked vocals.

Another favourite on the album is the second track Skeletal Lightning. This song is pure energy both instrumentally and vocally. There’s a great underlying melody at play here, one that you can easily bop your head along to, until the song explodes with a sudden surge of power, then that nod turns into a full-on headbang. While I enjoy the album’s opening track, I feel like this could have really started it off with a bang.

Lastly I want to specifically highlight track 6 Vital Beach, because its one of the most discordant and chaotic tracks on the album. It also features an extremely repetitive and yet catchy chorus that worms its way into your head. The track has a rapid fire vocal delivery from both vocalists and an equally as rapid and at times mathcore heavy instrumental response.

Overall I believe that Young Machetes is such a unique piece of music that it belongs on any good essential listening list. I genuinely wish that the band had continued to release music following this album after seeing the difference between this and their previous album Crimes, and the direction they were heading in. I would love to see what came next and how far they could push the boundaries of post-hardcore as a genre. At the very least though I’m glad that they went out on such a high note and left behind an amazing legacy as one of the most unique bands of all time.

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One thought on “Essential Listening: The Blood Brothers – Young Machetes

  1. Spiv Delicious

    super under-appreciated album for it being their last one (abruptly so as well) + Eric Reed Boucher aka Jello Biafra produced it too.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of [5] for me

    Reply

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