Blood Youth - Starve (Cover Artwork)

Blood Youth

Starve (2019)

Rude Records

I became aware of Harrogate-based 4-piece Blood Youth at the release of their debut album Beyond Repair in April 2017. It was a decent enough first full-length effort for a young hardcore-leaning band. There were some meaty riffs, frequent breakdowns and moments of both savagery and melody that were clearly aiming for the anthemic. Maybe it wasn’t the finished article, but not a bad first step and left plenty of options in terms of where the band could go next.

Fast forward a couple of years and Starve has now arrived – and’s quite different. There are still a lot of towering riffs, the clean/scream vocal dynamics are still there…but the album is frequently overshadowed by the fact that it feels like a nu-metal greatest hits cover album, to be honest. Listen to the riff, vocal delivery and pacing of “Spineless”: it’s 100% debut-era Slipknot. The intros especially, but most of both the title track and “Keep You Alive” simply would never have come into existence without the band clearly having listened to lot of Korn. “Nerve” sounds like a rejected track from Around the Fur but with someone doing a passable Corey Taylor over the top of it and “Waste Away” could be a Puddle of Mudd song. They’ve even gone to the extent of having hip-hop-inspired tracks/interludes in “{51/50}” and “{stone.tape.theory}” in the style of Linkin Park, Incubus, et al. Hell, even the cover art looks kind of like Iowa.

For the record, I don’t think having nu-metal influences is a bad thing, per se. I’m a big fan of a lot of the bands mentioned above (maybe not so much Puddle of Mudd...), but it’s not just the songwriting/structure, it’s the drum sound, the production, the occasional use of scratching/turntables, etc. Pretty much the whole album feels like they’ve lifted bits of pre-existing songs from 15 years ago, shifted the chord progressions very slightly and then overlaid their own lyrics. But even those feel like throwbacks and the prominent use of the ‘Falling away from you...’ line in “Waste Away” feels so brazen that it’s borderline scandalous.

Ok. I’m setting the nu-metal aspect aside for a minute in the interest of balance. Credit where it’s due, some of the songs are decent, assuming you’re into that sort of thing. They might not be original or necessarily always exciting, but as examples of a much-maligned sub-genre of music, they’re not bad at all. The title track and “Cut Me Open” both have chunky, driving riffs, heaps of bounce and the requisite melodic choruses, interspersed with discordant staccato bridges - and as club night ragers, they’re solid. I’ll also bet that with the right crowd, the live show will be a whole load of fun. I even enjoyed picking out the direct influences throughout the record, I’m just not sure that is what the band should be aiming for.

So an often disappointing but occasionally satisfying listen, I’m sad to say. It’s not that I’m down on nu-metal (I’m not) and it’s not that I’m down on the influences (I’m not), it’s just that this is so distractingly close to the source material/influences that it makes it hard to enjoy in its own right. If all those other bands and records didn’t exist, then this would be exciting and fun. As it is, nu-metal came and went, for better or worse, and I just don’t know how much anyone needs this record or what you might get from it, unless you’re of the rare belief that heavy music has been on a downward spiral ever since 2003. Actually, that’s probably harsh. If you’re a nu-metal apologist, then give it a listen and enjoy the nostalgia for a bit. If you’re too young to remember it the first time around? Some might argue you’re the lucky ones, but I’d wager you might find some stuff in here that you want to jump around to as well. For a bit.