Better red than dead

For a moment, it looked like The Bled had breathed its last. The Arizona-based outfit had put out three albums establishing it as one of the most exciting bands in the post-hard-core genre. But The Bled never enjoyed the success of similar acts like Atreyu or As I Lay Dying. After releasing a pair of follow-ups to their lauded 2003 debut, “Pass the Flask,” the quintet found itself on the verge of breaking up. Deeply in debt, the guys took time to work at home individually so they might right their finances.

Thanks to maxed-out credit cards, it was costing them money any time they went on tour. The hiatus nearly broke them, as everyone other than singer James Muñoz and guitarist Jeremy Ray Talley moved on.

“Once you take that time off and figure out ways to make money, you can get caught up in it, so we had to regroup a little bit,” said Talley. “I got a bunch of friends to take over the instruments that people left. Once we regrouped, we started putting it back together.”

In the end, the lineup change was more blessing than curse. The new members comprised a tighter, more cohesive unit.

“Our tastes didn’t always match up, and that brought out the best and made us very diverse. But we were people that have always butted heads,” he said. “With this lineup, I feel everyone’s a lot closer to being on the same page with what we think the strong points of the band are, and what we want out of making a record.”

Last year, The Bled released its latest, “Heat Fetish,” on its new label, Rise Records. It retains their signature blend of throttling dynamics, melodic bursts and the visceral crush of guitars — a potent Molotov cocktail of churning aggression. Talley credited producer Brian McTernan.

“He really brought out the best James Muñoz possible. His vocal performance really makes the record,” Talley said. “When he sings, he really hits it. He didn’t do that on ‘Found in the Flood.’ He was really trying to challenge himself, but I don’t think he nailed it on that record like he did on this one.”

He admitted that at any moment, The Bled could’ve gone into the studio and written the kind of sing-along choruses and mosh-worthy breakdowns that have propelled other bands to success. But that’s just not interesting to him. This uncompromising attitude is the central reason why his group remains so exciting.

“It might sound pretentious, but we consider ourselves artists. Music is an art form, and we’re not going to paint by numbers just to please everyone,” Talley said. “It’s more about making it fun for ourselves and creating something that you’re not going to hear from these other bands. The scene is just so saturated with hardcore bands, way more than it was when I first started doing this, so we want to keep it interesting for ourselves. I don’t want the listener to be able to guess where the song is going to go.”

Chris Parker

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