Emphatic and emotionally savage return to the scene from ex-Gallows vocalist.
It’s very good to hear Frank Carter playing heavy music again, very good indeed. When Carter left Gallows in 2011 to pursue a different route it appeared that he’d perhaps turned away from the unbridled aggression that had helped to carry Gallows so far in such a short amount of time – from the basements to the studios of Warner Brothers Records. Pure Love, his band following Gallows, were certainly different, and I’ll be the first to admit that they didn’t do a whole lot for me; I never appreciated their sole record Anthems as much as I’d have liked to prior to hearing it. Compared to the Carter I knew when initially introduced to his music, Pure Love felt too safe – too tame. With the hardcore talisman’s first release with The Rattlesnakes I found a record which is anything but. Blossom is wild, feral, and everything I want from a release spearheaded by the red-headed vocalist, an unrelenting behemoth of an album which sees Carter back to his blistering best, and wearing his heart on his sleeve.
Blossom is certainly a record fitting of the bands venomous name, biting often and draining in a good way. It’s a release born from grief, from loss, from anger, and it manages to convey each with a sharp intensity, hitting hard in several ways. Across it’s thirty-four minute run-time Carter fully lets loose, in a way he never really did with Gallows (hard to believe I know), and it’s a release which seems destined to maintain the stellar reputation he established for himself during his time with the Watford natives. Blossom certainly borrows from both of his two most recent outings, that Gallows bile mixed with Pure Love’s melody, and the result is an interesting chimera hybrid which is seemingly influenced moreso by the former’s music, and for the better. Carter is the Hulk more than he is Bruce Banner, more Mr. Hyde than Dr. Jekyll, and he shifts between the two far more comfortable than either pair, as is the case on Beautiful Death which starts soft and somber before erupting, full of spit and spirit. Lead single Fangs is a highlight as Carter finds himself seething during a striptease, the song bouncing and boiling as it progresses, sucker-punch coming after a standout hook and swirling bridge, and it marginally beats Loss, which is huge once it hits its stride. Both showcase different sides to Carter, and the latter is ferocious in its emotional barrage as he opens with ‘I lost my family, and I lost my friends.’ Turns out misery still fucking loves him, and in a twisted way I’m a little glad it does, because the result is material as electrifying as Blossom. Things are certainly intense throughout, even on the weaker Primary Explosive, which derails things marginally towards the death, and it does so by lacking some of the expressionism that other tracks offer. Carter here is at his most vulnerable, but in a way he’s also at his strongest, and the two clash, sparks starting a fire. For all its riffs and roars, Blossom is at heart a work of very real and authentic emotion, and this is, at least for me, what sets it apart from Carter’s other work.
Across the ten tracks burning on Blossom Carter allows himself, not always easily, to write far more personally than he ever has in the past. Moments during Loss and Beautiful Death are especially expressive of his innermost turmoil, the latter a heavy hitting track in several ways as Carter unloads his grief over the death of a loved one, pushing his voice to breaking point as he screams ‘I’m sorry I can’t tell you that I love you anymore / but I care about you more now than I ever did before / if you can hear me crying I’m sorry if it hurts / I know your pain was lifted, I feel worse’, pained and passionate. It’s impacting, and the albums strongest moment, which seems to see Carter hit a new high, even at his lowest. It’s raw and heartfelt, and he feels every single word like a knife wound, and we hear them as such. These portions of immense and wrenching clarity never really found their way into past work, at least in this capacity, but the artistic and personal freedom he allows himself here makes it possible, leading to songs which offer and effect more. Beautiful Death and Loss are two of the records strongest tracks, and it’s because they show Frank Carter as more than just a pissed off dude unleashing Hell; he’s unleashing his demons at the same time, and they make for excellent music. Blossom is a release to lose your shit to, no doubt, but it’s also one which is pretty deep lyrically, sobering in a sense, and in a way it makes Blossom Carter’s most accomplished release, and at least his most commendable. Paradise and Rotten Blossom address the afterlife, Carter asking on the latter ‘What happens to us when we die?’ and growling ‘Your paradise does not exist / It’s a tomb that’s full of emptiness / and if there is a paradise hidden in the sky I hope you never get to see it when you die’ on the former. As ever, he’s a convincing narrator to say the least, and the topics he grapples with on Blossom make for interesting material, even if their thought provoking intentions are occasionally blurred by the songs forceful instrumentation and delivery. Despite being recorded in two weeks or so, things sounds polished, whilst maintaining a razor sharp edge throughout. Blossom speeds along at a frantic and frenetic pace, seconds in with crushing opener Juggernaut, aptly named, to anthemic and catchy closer I Hate You, which is also fittingly titled as Carter unloads on an unnamed enemy with trademark aggression. The most playful track on the record, but also packed with a fair amount of rage, Blossom‘s finale is also one of its most memorable, if only for the lyrical content, which sees Carter growl ‘I want to smash you like extinction / as if your life was just a waste / I want to be the fucking dagger right between your shoulder blades‘ I almost felt guilty listening to it, as if I was responsible for the verbal assault, and it goes to show that no-one does ‘angry’ quite like Frank Carter does, and very few do it in a way which is quite as enjoyable for an audience.
I may not have made it out to be so far, but Blossom isn’t just a Frank Carter record, although it can feel like it at times, especially if familiar with his other ventures. ‘Even on my own you can’t stop me / Even on my own, I am a juggernaut’, but he isn’t alone, and his ferocity and creativity is regularly matched by the instrumental side of the record, which is content to pummel, as is the case on the opener, but also happy to showcase a rock and roll swagger, see Trouble and I Hate You. The guitar solo of sorts on the second track adds something to the experience, and as a whole, Blossom is ultimately much more than a Frank Carter project; it’s a brash new start for a band who could go very far, and look set to do so with such a strong debut. Admittedly, I came for Frank Carter, but I stuck around for the records other contributors as well – shame I couldn’t find their names anywhere.
After listening to Blossom, from the first time to the most recent, it seems clear that Frank Carter was born to write and record music. He remains as captivating a vocalist as ever, and his lyrical prowess on his debut venture as Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes shines through on a record which is dark, and delightfully so. It loses some steam slightly towards the end but as a debut, Blossom is brilliant, and as a record involving its leading man it’s as great as you’d expect it to be. Frank Carter is back, meaning business, and if you like your music loud, bitter and with something worth saying then Blossom is a record you need to hear. You’ll probably know within the first minute of Juggernaut whether it’s something you can get behind or not; stream it below.
Listen to: Fangs / Beautiful Death / I Hate You
FFO: Gallows, Verse, TRC