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Blindfolded and Led to the Woods

Rejecting Obliteration

Review by Craig Leahy

Warning - This is a long ass review, don't be a baby and tell me it's too long. Enough nagging and we'll start a podcast, you don't want that.

Far out man, okay fuck here we go, the first review ever written on Gone for Smokes. Man, May is a big month.  Every self-respecting fuckin’ nerd in this country is waiting on two things, the new Zelda game and the new Blindfolded and Led to the Woods album. Not gonna lie, it was a big deal for me getting the EPK in my inbox from Prosthetic Records with a watermarked version of Rejecting Obliteration. Watermarked just in case I put in on the torrent sites or whatever, just a heads up for Prosthetic, no one has time to pirate music right now, we’re all trying to pirate the new Zelda game.

I spent the week leading up to getting the Rejecting EPK building a gym in my garage, it’s fuckin’ cool man, got a squat rack in there and everything. After I finished the gym I was talking to my partner and we decided there was only one rule in the home gym – Only Himbo hardcore is to be played in there. No fuckin' prog, no shoegaze, only Himbo. I swear to god in that same conversation I looked my beautiful fiancé dead in her face, and the words “I’m going to order a Hatebreed flag for the gym” actually came out of my mouth, wasn’t until a few nights later I was lying there not sleeping (probably budgeting for Twitter blue or something) and it hit me so fucking hard that I’d told this poor woman who said she wants to spend the rest of her life with me that I, a 37 year old man, was going to be logging onto Direct Merch and ordering a fucking Hatebreed flag. Dude and she didn’t dump me, I swear she's only with me for my Zelda pre-order. 

Anyway, Satisfaction is the Death of Desire is god's perfect album, the flag will be here next week and without any word of exaggeration, if you don’t lift weights and listen to Hatebreed you’re a fucking loser.

So, a few days later I’m heading out to the gym and it hit me, oh shit the Blindfolded album is in my inbox. I decide that the first listen will be while I’m working out (bi’s, tri’s and chest for you rats out there) and dude it doesn’t even really break the only rule of home gym club, these guys are Himbo as fuck. Every single member of Blindfolded is snatched as fuck man, dude their new drummer, Anthony Coota (doesn’t play on this album) looks like a guy who’d be flogging creatine on TikTok he’s fine as hell. Not only was this a bad choice for a workout, it may have completely fucked up the rest of the year as far as death metal goes. Every single song has something that made me completely stop what I was doing to focus, don't get me wrong, that's a fucking great quality to have in an album, but sincerely gave me the worst workout of my year, and I hold Blindfolded directly responsible. 

Alright let's talk about why this fucking band is so jizzed up all the time.



Rejecting Obliteration feels so fucking special right out of the gate because you're hearing 5 guys at the absolute top of their game, they've never worked together better, they've never had better performances and quite frankley, they've never looked better. I should probably be open about the fact that I'm a bit biased because I genuinely love these boys as human beings even if their band sucked, but also I'll talk shit in each of their faces in a second so if I need to talk smack, I'll absolutely do it.

Firstly we've got Stace Fifield on vocals, don't want to blow up his spot too much because he's so fucking scary on stage and recorded, but Stace is the absolute sweetest boy you'll ever meet. You know when you were a kid and all you wanted was a stuffed toy or whatever but like the most obtuse, invasive and enourmous panda or whatever that just fucks your bedroom right up? That's Stace. Dude is always charming as fuck, funny as hell and seemingly just begging for a cuddle.Nick Smith on bass who not only has the most interesting first and last name combination you'll ever hear, but I wouldn't be surprised if we end up with matching Danzig tattoos. Nick drove Tuscoma around when we were down south last and having him blast Danzig II on the drive from Christchurch to Dunedin and having Kurt (singer in Tuscoma) shouting how shit it is with Nick and I just singing Long Way Back From Hell and completely ignoring his wrong opinion will never not be funny. Danzig fucking RULES cuzzies.  Tim Stewart, who has since left the band to start a Crypto company I think (citation needed), is playing drums on this album is the absolute most effortlessly cool son of a bitch you'll ever meet, I quietly hope he's a fucking demon after a few 8% Diesels because he's the sweetest and coolest dude you'll ever meet, he needs a darkside. There's Ben Atkinson on guitars who not only worked for the government party I've voted for the last few elections, but is wildly known for being the only member of Blindfolded to actually open and play his vinyl after he buys them, imagine that. He's the fuckin' man.  We've  got Stu Henley-Minchington on guitar who single handedly made long tees cool again and is for sure in running for the best death metal guitarist this country has ever had, I swear to god my favorite human interaction ever was down at the Twisted Frequency festival my band was playing and he was doing a set with his gritty electro side-project, Pill Murray. I saw him from across the field and hadn't seen him in maybe 2 years? Yelled out, went over and went to shake his hand, he was eating an apple. He looked at me, softly tilted his head to glance toward the apple, looked back at me,  one more time looked at the apple as if to see if it was still there then slowly looked back at me and gave me this look like "bro, apple" then slightly shrugged his shoulders while I just stood there hand extended. I've never stopped thinking about this interaction, I'm not even sure he'd remember it happening. And you know what, he was eating an apple that was totally my bad, I've never been known for my good apple ettiquite. Dude is a total sweetheart and a powerhouse songwriter. Probably should have called this album Rejecting Handshakes though. The latest addition to Blindfolded is the aforementioned Anthony Coota on drums, replacing Tim, I've never met Anthony but from what I imagine, he runs a succesful personal training workshop called Gravity-Blast the Muffin-Top and seems like a total cuzzie, he's from Australia so someone's gonna have to smarten him up on the Diesels quick. Fuck I bet he has abs too.



I'm not even sure to start with the actual album man, it's fucking perfect. The boys are operating on a higher level than even Nightmare Withdrawals, which was a monumental step up songwriting wise from their earlier albums. You're not going to find any short sharp party bangers here, with the exception of Funeral Smile that clocks in just under two minutes, but those two minutes are like the first time you take salvia in front of your mates who have done it before and know you're going to react poorly and try to fight someone. Every single one of these songs is instantly memorable but take multiple listens before you even begin to sift through the textures. More layers than Aunty Belinda's trifle that she insists on bringing to Christmas even though you've told her SO many fucking times you're lactose intolerant and it ruins your day. So is this a party album? No. Well, actually yes, but only if Belinda is there and I hope she finds it super distressing and leaves. This is an album that doesn't need, but demands your attention, every last detail is calculated and adds to the overall composition without ever sounding contrived or flat. Blindfolded dabble in the tech-death sound but never seem to go full tech-death, which I love because , hopefully not offending the segment of readers whose beard to neck hair ratio swings solemnly in favour of the neck, tech-death mostly sucks. Like, in a post-Necrophagist world there's not a lot left to achieve so just start a Necrophagist covers channel on YouTube, the one guy doing the full Epitaph playthrough is probably tired by now. The boys straddle the line of thoughtful composition and complete 'guy at the show asking about your pedalboard' often while never going full anime intro song territory, that's probably my favorite quality of this whole album. It's technically speaking one of the best things you're going to hear all year and it's got so much urgency, anger and melancholy that it never even remotely feels like mindless guitar hero shit, that's such a testament to the boys. Big props, you geeks. Stu, Ben and Nick, play your shit worse, everyone else out here feels like shit. 


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While I'm talking shit on people with patchy beards, let's get the rest of the weird ass beard community involved. I kinda hate prog too, unless it's the kind of prog album I need a character sheet and a set of dice to digest, like fuck off with your prog flourishes, I want to solve a murder mystery by the end of a prog album. But surprise, surprise these overachieving dickheads in Blindfolded manage to mesh just fucking beautifully woven progressive elements all over this album that never feel tacked on, the best example of this is in the song Cicada. I could write two full paragraphs about Cicada but after that Stu story I should really work on writing less, so I'll just say that I genuinely believe this is the single best death metal song to have ever come out of our fine country. It's fucking perfect, from its broad and sweeping cinematic intro riff that wouldn't be out of place on a Nile album to the middle section which ALMOST got me craving listening to a Red Sparrows album again, almost but post-rock kind of sucks too. If there's one song that you hunt down to decide if you're going to buy this thing, I urge you to find Cicada. Adding to how much I love this track, it descends into an almost industrial outro soaking in synth that fades out into the masterful Funeral Smile. This transition is everything, fucking god tier production and album placement. I mentioned earlier that in my opinion, this band has never worked better together. If I can suggest at least one listen of this to be by yourself on headphones, but I mean come on, if you're reading a written review of Blindfolded and Led to the Woods that is THIS LONG, you're probably by yourself quite often. Getting to that granular level on this album will only help you appreciate it more, Ben and Stu play together in a way that I wish more guitarists would spend the time to do, they seldom play the same voicing at the same time in a way that never feels like they're trying to out-do each other, until Stu swings his big ol' dick around with a solo that would push John Petrucci into a locker and beat up Rusty Cooley in the bike sheds after school. These guys are perfect for each other and they basically look like the same guy, so it's kinda funny too. But as every true pure strength build warrior knows, a couple of sexy twin guitarists ain't shit without a solid bass player and there is not a riff on this album that isn't amplified by Nick's big dangly bass tone and balls. His tone is so fucking snarly that at times I felt like I owed it money, the intro to Caustic Burns or the breaks in Methlehem had more than one rewind to fully digest the tone. Each song is just oozing synth which I appreciate so fucking much, the tones are nightmare inducing and as a man building a modular synth as I type this, you fucking know I'm going to be a gear punisher next time I see you, Stu.

Man, you couldn't have planned a better swansong for Tim than Rejecting Obliteration. His playing is fierce, driving, avoids any tech-death clichés, actually it always feels like he has somewhere else to be so is playing as hostile as he can to get the fuck out of there. I wonder where he's going in such a hurry. Dude I'm super excited to see what the boys get up to with Anthony and I hope Tim knows how much his drumming meant to this band, because it's fucking glorious. This brings me to Stace, and apparently I've wronged him or why else would he sound this pissed off and menacing. This is Stace's best performance, by a lot. And I swear to god I said that when Nightmare Withdrawals came out too. Stace is becoming too powerful if I'm being honest, someone needs to address that before he becomes mayor of Christchurch or something. He goes between full death metal gutturals and Hatebreed flag buying hardcore kid with ease and you know what? He's just won a lifetime membership to Himbo Home Gym for this performance.


I don't know what to tell you losers, this is a perfect death metal album. It's only April and I can't see any other NZ release matching what this album gave me in terms of pure enjoyment and desires to kickstart a prescription pill habit. This album has set the bar for 2023 metal releases, not only in New Zealand, but worldwide. And I'm saying that knowing full well that the new Cattle Decapitation is about to drop.

Rejecting Obliteration Rating  - 8% out of 8% 8% Diesels

Favorite Track - Cicada

I just hate knowing that all the gains I make in Himbo Gym won't have shit on the gains I make from all the emotional labour carrying these god damn riffs around everyday for the rest of my life.

Rejecting Obliteration can be pre-ordered here, and I strongly think you should.

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