Mouth For War is a band that seemingly haven’t yet received the notoriety in heavy music that they truly deserve. Originating from Colorado Springs, Colorado, the band has consistently put out excellent quality metallic hardcore over their relatively short career, and the momentum hasn’t stopped since. In 2021, Mouth For War unleashed their monstrous debut LP with the fiery Life Cast In Glass, an album soaked with cathartic rage and grief, and also loaded to the brim with over-the-top breakdowns and fight riffs. A debut LP as strong as this always creates a tricky situation for bands, as creating a great sophomore record can be just as important for growth. So, how will Mouth For War follow up on Life Cast In Glass? Will they soar to higher skies, or fall victim to the infamous sophomore slump? Well, if 2023 LP Bleed Yourself isn’t a punch in the gut to anyone who doubts the band, I don’t know what is!
Mouth For War’s Bleed Yourself is not only one of the best heavy records of 2023, but is also the band’s best work to date, bar none. This album is absolutely crushing and incendiary, leaving you feeling like you’re being beat over the head with a log by an angry caveman for 35 minutes (in a good way, of course). And yet, it’s also one of the most emotionally gutting albums I’ve heard in quite some time, when you pay closer attention to what’s actually being said. It’s this juxtaposition of catharsis that drives this album to levels of greatness rarely seen in this subgenre of music, propelling it clear above all of the band’s peers.
Bleed Yourself opens with the riffy, bouncy Roses In Place Of Your Ashes, which gives the listener a clear expectation of what’s to come on the next 12 songs. The opener perfectly encapsulates a unique blend of fight riffs, breakdowns, melodic touches, and booming, over the top instrument arrangements that are seen throughout the album’s entire run time. The Plight of Those You Left Behind follows a similar vein, catalyzing with one of the sickest guitar riffs heard on the entire record.
If you’re a fan of all things fast, heavy, and unrelenting (like myself), you’ll be very happy with Bleed Yourself, as that sector of Mouth For War’s sound takes up just about the entire record. The Devil is perhaps the best example, and easily shines as the best song Mouth For War has ever written. This cut opens with pounding drum fills and blazing fast riffage that only seems like it increases in speed as the song progresses. The musicality here is nothing short of unhinged, all culminating into a back-to-back breakdown finale that is, in my opinion, the best breakdown to come out of heavy music in 2023. On top of that, the song features incredibly hard hitting lyricism, but more on that later.
The Rush Of Seeing Red similarly shines as one of the most unrelenting and ass-beating tracks Mouth For War has ever put together, showcasing a tug-of-war of fight riffs and breakdowns that leave you feeling as if you are being ripped to shreds by a roaring chainsaw.
It feels as if the only moment you have to breathe over the course of the entire 35 minute run time is during the minute-and-a-half interlude In Lieu Of Flowers, but even that is sandwiched firmly between Taste Of Steel and the aforementioned The Devil, two of the heaviest hitters on the record. Bleed Yourself simply never lets up, leaving you beaten and bloodied on the floor by the time it’s final moments roll around.
Under The Gun is yet another moment of unforgiving punishment by Mouth For War, featuring a barrage of pounding chugs and slicing riffs that could give you the adrenaline to run bare-fisted into a tank battle. There’s clearly a reason this cut was chosen as the album’s initial single, as it gives the listener a perfect assessment of what this album will do to your body.
Elsewhere, Captivated brings forth a more melodic side of Mouth For War’s capabilities, delivering some of the band’s best lead guitar work. This cut is fairly dynamic, seamlessly transitioning from enormously spacious melodies, straight back into absolute debaucherous breakdowns. It easily stands out as one of the better songs on Bleed Yourself, and one of the bands best songs in general.
Saturate Me follows a similar structure, this time seemingly reversed; the song opens with brutal chugs and fight riffs, only to later transition into something more melodic and open. Encapsulating almost every aspect of Mouth For War’s current sound into a tight, three-minute run time, Saturate Me was a clear choice for the lead single from this album.
However, this isn’t to say that the only great aspect of Bleed Yourself is its musicality. The lyricism shown throughout this album is also absolutely impeccable as well. The poeticism shown on these songs paints a picture that is truly heartbreaking, and makes it easy to empathize with vocalist Trae Roberts. The album tells the story of Roberts’ grief in dealing with the loss of his sister, Sophie, and all of the emotions that come with such a devastating loss. While the music on the record is heavy and angry, the lyrics are much darker and sad than expected, representing the hole of a life tragically lost.
Roses In Place Of Your Ashes serves as an outlet of pure grief, with lines such as “Like roses in place of your ashes / All I know is that I’ll never flourish now / Wishful thinking gave its cue / Like flowers in place of you,” absolutely breaking the heart of anyone who listens.
No Grace sings “no mercy or grace / Just the cards you’ve been dealt / In lieu of flowers, send help,” showcasing the frustration of dealing with the inadequacies of the consolation of others, who’d rather provide a symbol of caring, rather than care itself. Grief is something that is near impossible to deal with without leaning on those you are close to, and sometimes we’d all much rather hear a “how are you doing? Do you want to talk about it?” rather than an “I’m sorry for your loss.”
The Devil, The Rush Of Seeing Red, and Taste Of Steel all paint a blood red picture of the desire for vengeance, representing the vicious anger that can accompany the untimely loss of a loved one, especially at the hands of another human being. The line “I have this dream where I walk in your house / Get a grip around your throat and squeeze down / I have the devil in me / Look into my eyes / I’m here to take your life,” comes from The Devil, giving you a glimpse into the anger and pain felt by Roberts, and a want for equalization.
Perhaps the most beautiful line of the album comes from Saturate Me, with Roberts woefully screaming “Bleed me into your scene, rewriting your ending / I am your canvas / Oh, what a song I hear your angel sing.”
All in all, Bleed Yourself stands tall as one of the best albums of 2023, and the best project ever written by the band Mouth For War, by quite a large margin. This album has just about everything you could want out of a record of this nature, showcasing violent riffage, devastating breakdowns, cacophonous drum work, and beautifully-written lyricism. Mouth For War fired on any and all cylinders possible with this album, leaving no spark of genius left unwritten. The band’s debut LP Life Cast In Glass was going to be a tough record to follow up on, and yet, Mouth For War have far surpassed it in every way conceivable. To put it simply, if you listen to heavy music and album isn’t sky high on your end of year lists, you’re listening to music incorrectly.
For fans of: Boundaries, Kublai Khan TX, Knocked Loose
‘Bleed Yourself’ by Mouth For War is released on 27th October on MNRK Heavy.
Words by Hunter Hewgley