Change can be a great thing, but it doesn’t always happen overnight. For some bands, the process can take the better part of a decade, between locking in the right lineup, finding the ideal sound and forging a unified creative vision. After eight years as a band, heavy metal trailblazers Blessed By A Broken Heart are finally there, and are embracing the changes as yet another chapter in their already distinguished career. And the best is yet to come.
After spending the last three years writing their third full-length release, Blessed are ready to get loud and make some noise, featuring new members, a retooled aesthetic and a sharply honed focus on monster hooks, sure to have fans everywhere banging their heads and hoisting lighters and phones high up into the air. One thing is clear: Blessed have come to bring the rock.
“We've been writing this record for the last three years, kind of like a Def Leppard thing. You can't rush greatness,” says drummer Slater. “We've grown—We're still a fun, carefree band with songs about partying and having a good time and everything rock 'n' roll's all about—but we've got some songs that are more serious, and a little more personal. We've all grown as musicians, too; it's more technical and a lot more melodic, yet still heavy.”
Blessed By A Broken Heart began in 2003 in Montreal, Canada after being founded by bassist Tyler Hoare, and the band issued its first recording—All Is Fair In Love And War—just a year later, in 2004. Early tours included a notable run with punk-core sensations A Day To Remember, who were on the road for the first time. Blessed continued to evolve over the years, with guitarist Shred Sean joining the ranks in 2005 and vocalist Tony Gambino signing on in 2007, leading to the band’s 2008 release, Pedal To The Metal, on Century Media Records. In those five years since their inception Blessed toured incessantly, including playing jam-packed houses in the U.S., U.K., Japan mainland Europe and Australia, performing alongside bands such as Judas Priest, Bring Me The Horizon, Steel Panther, Megadeth and Maylene And The Sons Of Disaster. In 2009 Blessed parted ways with Century Media Records, paving the way for their current collaboration with Tooth & Nail Records.
Over the course of the last eight years, Blessed has experienced a near constant evolution, including various lineup changes, and a stylistic progression away from pure metalcore in favor of more traditional metal and hard rock. One listen to the new album and it’s apparent that Blessed are no longer the same band that recorded All Is Fair, and if you ask the members, that’s their saving grace. Staying ahead of the curve and distancing themselves from the pack is the key to longevity, and the reason the new album will resonate with even the most veteran headbangers.
“We've definitely matured as a band. We really wrote this album collectively, and it just naturally had this progression of where we all wanted to go,” says vocalist Tony Gambino. “It naturally went in this direction. I think all of us are over the hardcore/metalcore stuff; we were one of the first bands that were successful doing that back in 2003. Now, there are millions of bands trying to be like that, and we want nothing to do with it. We're not in this to follow the trends—we're in it to do what we love.”
And indeed, this latest record is not your typical modern metal album, by any stretch. Between its anthemic choruses, rich keyboards and scorching guitar licks, the album evokes the feel of a classic ’80s metal album a la Mötley Crüe and Guns N’ Roses, yet moves beyond sheer nostalgia into true creative territory. Blessed are quick to point out that the genre is something the band eats, sleeps and breathes, and this time around they’re playing for keeps, channeling their passion into a serious, yet still fun, compendium of songs that keep the hair metal torch burning, sans irony, here in 2011.
“The whole band is still obsessed with the ’80s, and that's bled into our lifestyles. It's not just when we're on tour: We all kind of dress ’80s; we still have mullets. It's become part of our lives,” says Gambino. “On the last album, we used more of the cheesy side of the ’80s, and this album we used a little more of the mature side. It's a little less fluff, a lot less cheese, a little more serious. We’ve kind of gone a little more classic metal and heavy rock ‘n’ roll. It's real organic how it all came together.”
Another stylistic departure was made with the band’s choice of producer. Instead of tapping the usual suspects for a metal record, Blessed opted to work with pop-punk/rock veteran James Paul Wisner (Dashboard Confessional, New Found Glory, Paramore) at his South Florida HQ. It proved to be a sound move, between Wisner’s skills at enhancing Blessed’s melodic leanings and his abilities as an engineer, which resulted in what’s arguably the band’s best sounding recording to date.
“We scoped out a lot of producers, but because this record was a lot more commercial-savvy, we wanted to go with someone who wasn't just some metal guy,” says Slater. “We wanted to go with someone who had a touch with good songwriting, good substance to songs, and someone who has a good background working with people who have written really catchy songs. More than just producing, he brought his engineering skills, too, and he can get a really good, clean sound. I think that was the best thing he brought to the table: being able to take our style and make it sound sonically in the right place.”
Beyond just the authenticity of its tone, Blessed’s latest effort tracks pulse with a prevalent heartbeat that stems from the songs being a true labor of love; writing them was very much a hands-on process that the band spearheaded through their own initiative. Over the last few years, Blessed have been writing literally everywhere, using Slater’s mobile recording rig, known as “The Cave,” to document the sessions. Besides the obvious productivity advantage of such a setup, the fact that FEEL THE POWER was written in a variety of locations adds to the album’s diversity, taking on different tones and feels based on the environment where inspiration first struck.
“Wherever I'm at we'll set up this little recording rig and write, and over the last three years, we've been in so many different places. It's kind of funny, because songs were written in different parts of the world, and those songs all have different vibes,” explains Slater. “The Seattle songs are darker, thanks to all the rain. [laughs] The New York ones are the hardest rocking. The Florida ones are all about partying on the beach.”
On the new album Blessed have also continued their topical discussions of faith and spirituality, combined with the reality of everyday life and touring, but have taken a personal, inordinately subtle approach to such themes, which is a rarity these days, when in contrast so many bands are aggressively spreading the word. “We just wrote what we were feeling at the time. We're not one of those bands to try to shove our views down people's throats,” explains Slater. “We just want to sing about what's on our mind, whether it's love or a relationship with a girl, or our faith, or partying all night on the beach. We do it all. We're not some church kids who are trying to pose to be a heavy rock band.”
So after three long years that saw significant lineup changes, vast musical growth and countless road miles, Blessed are finally armed with a bold new record, and are ready to bring their unique brand of metal to the masses; the only question is whether the world is ready. Rocking ultra-hard amid a scene that’s become reliant on copycats, clichés and trends, the Blessed are taking the genre back to its roots, and doing everything in their power to destroy stereo speakers across the globe.
“The whole vibe of this record is to forget all the bull crap; no matter what the song's about, simply FEEL THE POWER,” says Gambino. “There's so much watered down music in the scene, and we're kind of just trying to bring back the real roots of rock ‘n’ roll. At the end of the day, we're trying to rock as hard as possible.”