If Blood Youth’s debut album Beyond Repair said anything, it was that with a bit of work and fine-tuning, they could be a welcome addition the UK hardcore scene, and with the vast number of chancers looking to break in increasing by the day, that says a lot. Of course, some of that work would have to involve sprucing up their sound for something more of their own, and while the foundations of taut, biting post-hardcore had promise and a lot of merit behind it, it was always easy to make comparisons to more successful acts, particularly Beartooth in how many close similarities the two shared. But from what they’ve delivered with Starve so far, it looks as though Blood Youth have really gone out of their way to break away from that previous sound, now incorporated a grizzled, rugged nu-metal edge while keeping the tightness that they’d always controlled so well. It’s already been enough to make this album’s title track one of the strongest things they’ve ever done, and if the entire album can keep it up, Starve could easily be Blood Youth’s gateway into territory within modern British hardcore that they can truly claim as their own.

And if they’re not there yet, they’re at least in spitting distance, as Starve feels like the most uncompromising and complete iteration of Blood Youth’s sound to date. What was a good first few steps have fully solidified into something great on this album, embracing the darkness and metallic crunch that had previously been just out of view, and pairing it with their most anthemic post-hardcore instincts to date in a way that just feels bigger above anything else. Of course, the tar-thick low end resultant of the swift pivot to nu-metal does a lot of the heavy lifting (and with the final product, it all seems to be worth it), but for perhaps the first time on a Blood Youth release, Starve sees everything come together in all the right ways for this band to reach their highest peak to date.

It’s pretty much a necessity to attribute this to just how many cues from nu-metal are actually taken as well, not only because a fairly liberal amount of Starve clearly has the old greats in its peripheral vision, but also because Blood Youth aren’t pulling any punches here. The hip-hop-inspired instrumental breaks of {51/50} and {stone.tape.theory} are clear, immediate signs of a band comfortable of sliding straight into this new guise, tentativeness be damned, but the crushing, noise-inflicted grind of the extended closer Exhale is already a prime example of how few self-imposed restrictions Blood Youth have, laying waste to familiarity in a way that’ll stand them in extremely good stead going forward. It would be nice to get more of that considering how much of this album does feel like rather traditional nu-metal fare, but it’s hardly phoned in presented half-heartedly. The eerie stalk of the cavernous bass tone of Nerve and Waste Away might owe a lot to Korn but carries the same weight that makes it so effective, and Spineless and Visitant take a recognisably Slipknot-esque guitar tone for some of Blood Youth’s most savage work to date. It definitely helps that the production retains the primal grime that’s so prevalent in the buzzsaw guitars and metallic clank of the drums, and with Kaya Tarsus able to fit into the role of rampant, agonised frontman perfectly, Starve hits every one of its touchstones with enough force for something truly potent.

And in a way, that ultimately proves to be the saving grace of Blood Youth, particularly for where they may have stumbled in the past. That comes most prominently in the writing, which has often played to the broader archetypes and representations of grief and anger that modern post-hardcore has made so commonplace, but in the context of an album like this, where everything feels so much more raw and galvanised with blunt sonic beatings being placed at the fore, it feels far less predictably rote as a result. There’s still an element of that there (which, alongside a general lack of variation proves to be this album’s primary weakness), but the visceral and cathartic thrill of the likes of the title track and Hate has so much more weight and presence to it to negate how admittedly underdeveloped some of the writing can be. For an album like this, intent is arguably more important than how it’s verbalised, and that’s an approach that feels far more suited to Blood Youth’s skill set.

Basically then, it’s easy to see Starve as an improvement practically across the board. It’s a lot heavier and more volatile; there’s a more satisfying wallop to how it hits; and while overall variety is still something that do with investing more resources into, it’s still probably the best that Blood Youth have sounded to date. At the very least, they’ve landed on something that benefits their skills as a band more than ever, and when it’s presented with the gusto and old-school punch that it is, it’s hard to complain about the results in any great capacity. This is what Blood Youth have been leading up to for virtually their entire career, and while it might have taken longer than preferred to get there, the quality at the end of the day is undeniable.

8/10

For fans of: Slipknot, Korn, Cane Hill
Words by Luke Nuttall

‘Starve’ by Blood Youth is released on 22nd February on Rude Records.

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