Let's face it: a lot of the music we listen to is just plain ol' forgettable. Of course, every once in a while, an album will come along that sticks in your mind solely because it makes you wonder just what godforsaken orifice the band pulled it out of. Even more rarely will come the occasion when you make the same remark not out of unbridled disgust, but out of sheer dumbfounded amazement and awe. She Said Destroy's 2012 release Bleeding Fiction, though merely an EP consisting of a single 27-minute piece, is one such work.
What's most surprising about this release is that there was no real way to see it coming. Sure, She Said Destroy aren't a band exactly known for staying in one style for very long--anyone who's heard their eclectic 2008 album This City Speaks in Tongues can tell you that. But even then, there was absolutely no hint from the band that they could create such a dense, sludgy post-metal epic, let alone one that is as immaculately and intricately composed as this one.
The piece starts with some lightly strummed guitars, setting an uncomfortable atmosphere right from the get-go. Then, some drones begin to slowly emerge, augmenting the already unsettling ambiance. Together, they eventually build up into a hymn-like passage that plays like a funeral procession, complete with a melody line so reverent that it would have sounded more moving than a rendition of "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes. The slow, lumbering pace and mournful tone set the stage for the half hour of despondence yet to come.
The droning finally gives way to the band in its entirety, entering by playing the mid-tempo main theme. For a melody that is so simple, it's hard to imagine how it can be as moving as it is. The growling enters soon after, performing in the most sentimental manner you will ever hear, the lyrics nigh-incomprehensible and much less important than the raw power and heartfelt feeling behind them. The piece digresses into a second theme as the lead guitar begins to croon its solo line. Acoustic guitar adds some embellishment before the piece slowly returns back to the main theme. The drums and a distant guitar introduce the third theme of the piece. The rest of the band enters a short while after, mostly making way for the bass to take over the lead with its low, loud, crushing sonority. The vocals return with a higher-register scream, invoking a previously-unheard sense of desperation and pain.
And just as you think the piece is finally going to give away, the development begins. The drums and guitars suddenly become heavily syncopated instead of playing with their former straightforward, mechanical rhythmic consistency. This lasts for only a short while before the piece revisits its original droning sorrow, an incredibly bittersweet guitar solo showing us into the piece's first true break from style. Nearly the entire band drops out, with only acoustic guitars keeping the piece moving forward. They inject some much-needed hopefulness and cheer into the otherwise incredibly depressing piece. Soon they are joined by the drums, marching with the force of a full legion, ushering us into the next proper movement of the piece. Things seem to look upwards as this theme builds before the acoustics suddenly give way to the intense metal once again. The piece then alternates between these two disparate sounds for a short while, creating a strong sense of tension.
When it finally ceases and resolves, we are treated to the most beautiful drone solo you will hear this side of Isis, hitting with the forceful crushing power of a wave crashing onto the shoreline. The almost-ambient growling only adds weight to the guitar's power, creating what is nearly the biggest climax on the album. The piece then returns to the first movement again, repeating the first couple of passages in a similar style. There are additional growling lines used to embellish the original themes, giving the piece a disquieting sense of unease while still maintaining some firm familiarity. This reprise pulls a false fade-out ending before being built back up again, one piece at a time: first the guitar, then the bass, then the second guitar line, then the drums. Finally, the build finishes in an unsettling powerful forte, moving the piece forward with urgency and denying you the resolution you so desperately need.
But She Said Destroy have saved the best for last. Finally, after 22 minutes of the most unforgiving post-metal, the piece fades out into the most powerful section of all. The last five minutes consist of an intensely melodic drone that slowly morphs into the most emotionally tear-jerking moment on the album, which plays us out until the end. If you can imagine the band using the thick instrumentation of Dirge's "Wings of Lead Over Dormant Seas" to play a piece similar to the cathartic release of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's "[Antennas to Heaven...]", then you'll have imagined only a fraction of the power this outro has. To say it will leave you drained is to understate its power by several orders of magnitude. I have no qualms admitting that I was openly bawling the first time I heard the ending of this piece.
Bleeding Fiction has handily become one of my favourite EPs ever released from any artist in any genre. The sprawling, repetitive, yet still multi-thematic composition is an incredible example of how properly written music can unwittingly render the listener in tears. She Said Destroy have created a piece here that is as close to perfect as you can get without resorting to a contract with the Devil, and I can only applaud them for rising to the challenge of crafting a work of such pristine artistry. I honestly cannot stop listening to this EP, and I'm unlikely to do so anytime soon; whether it's out of a masochistic desire for melancholy or out of respect for its sheer beauty I am still uncertain.
9.5 / 10
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