Despite relatively low mainstream recognition, Controlled Bleeding have been around since 1978, released 30 albums, and have continued to defy genre stereotyping by using and abusing bits and pieces of progressive metal, gothic metal, dub step, electronic, jazz, experimental rock, industrial, classical noise, and others tags. Their new LP, Odes to Bubbler, is their first release in five years, a tribute of sorts to their singer Joe “Bubbler” Papa, who passed away in 2009.
The only remaining founding band member is the mastermind Paul Lemos, who brings the full brunt of his experimental sensibilities to Bubbler. In the past, the band had been known for being so radically different that it was nearly impossible to classify them from year to year. However, this album maintains a feeling of unity, an avante-garde slant that makes it a great vehicle to showcase Lemos’ blistering musicianship.
Opening track “Trawlers Song” bursts out of the gate with galloping drums and dizzying guitar play that leaves you breathless. Nearing Buckethead territory, this technical style continues on to “Eye of the Needle”, which features such mind-bending solos that you can almost hear the strings being burned away. These two songs set you up for the rest of the album’s instrumental push and pull.
There are a few older tracks mixed into the album, including a posthumous appearance by Papa, plus songs that feature Weasel Walter and Ruins drummer Tatsuya Yoshida. The only places where the album falls a little flat are in the “Bees” snippets, which slow down the pace, mid-listen. Controlled Bleeding is a band that you’d definitely want to see live, if not for the breakneck music and ambient noise, then to witness the expert musicianship that coaxes the most surprising, raw sounds out of their instruments. Odes to Bubbler acts as a fitting example of the band’s longevity and their prolific, genre-bending songwriting.
Papa would be proud.