It's been three years since Charlottesville, VA-based gothic rockers Bella Morte rolled out their last album Beautiful Death, and since then they've been all over the media map: frontman Andy Deane started a side project called The Rain Within, and he's also turned horror author, with a couple of published novels under his belt; the band has made guest appearances in everything from comics to video games, and last year they teamed up with Troma's Lloyd Kaufman and the Toxic Avenger for a slime-and-gore-drenched music video. But they've also been hard at work doing what they do best, which is rocking your ass off. Read on for a mini-review of their latest studio album Before the Flood...
While they're clearly influenced by old-school horror rock, industrial and '80s style post-punk, Bella Morte have never let themselves get stuck in any specific kind of genre groove, and they blend and change their styles frequently – sometimes from track to track. Beautiful Death put the focus on solid gothic rock with an urgent energy... and it totally worked, because the band's songwriting skills serve that vibe perfectly, and Deane has said that those songs represented the band more than any they'd written before. That said, Before the Flood is a moodier, more pensive project, and the energy feels different. That's not a negative thing; it's cool to hear the band exploring new emotional paths, and the sound they worked so hard to achieve on the previous album is still going strong.
There's more of a power-pop groove dominating these eleven cuts – from Deane's richer, more melodic vocal approach, to the warm, clean guitar tones and low, dark piano passages. The lyrical intimacy of songs like "Falling Star," "Line of Sight" and "Bones Below" gets a dose of grandeur through layers of chorus harmonies and expansive reverb. The chugging rhythms and wide vocal range that dominated Beautiful Death and 2006's Bleed the Gray Sky Black have been toned down a bit in favor of gentler washes of sound, less aggression and a more somber atmosphere – most apparent in the dark ballads "Here With Me" and the epilogue "Oceans Wide," which stand together as the band's most introspective work.
That's not to say that they don't bring the rock: "Lights in the Sky" calls back to their heavier sound, with a bouncy synth line and beefy guitars, and the title track has a mighty industrial vibe; "Undertow" is one of the most energetic cuts, and features some cool chorus-soaked guitars, and the opening track "Skin" is a solid, gritty and powerful pop-rock piece that's sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Overall, Before the Flood maintains the urgency that made Beautiful Death such a career landmark, but this time the energy is turned more inward, which makes it an ideal flipside to its predecessor.