In This Moment is one of the few bands I have something of a hipster attitude towards; as in, I’ve been a fan of theirs since before they were cool. Around the time of 2010’s A Star-Crossed Wasteland, the band’s creative direction took a turn for the more theatrical. Their stage shows became sweeping productions, with backup dancers, set pieces, and enough costume changes to make Lady Gaga turn her head. In some respects, frontwoman Maria Brink became a pop diva with a metal backing band.
By the time their 2012 album Blood was released, the New York-based band hit their stride. Though a couple years off from what the title track of their 2014 album Black Widow would call “a hellpop groove,” Blood was a potent mix of alternative, gothic, and industrial metal with a healthy dose of pop sensibility and delivery. This watershed release launched Maria Brink and her conspirators into the metal stratosphere, even if a couple of tracks have been overperformed by any drag performer trying to show her darker side.
Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.
Setting the opener “Rise with Me” aside, I can remember hearing “Blood” for the first time, after having been such a fan of their previous effort A Star-Crossed Wasteland. This song… didn’t feel like In This Moment. It didn’t even really feel metal, even in the chorus, but rather a pop song, lyrically dealing in the hard knocks and the abuse one takes on their way to getting what they want. Guitar solos aren’t frequently employed in their music, but the bluesy, soulful lead that comes in the bridge is a highlight.
“Adrenalize” is a full-throttle groove metal masterpiece, barreling forth with a machine gun kick drum pattern fit for any windmill headbanging needs. The verses gallop with an one-note riff that gets little licks and flourishes added as we inch towards the chorus. Riff after riff, this song is just a kickass time from moment one to moment done.
“Whore” might be the band’s most recognizable song, especially since the inception of Tiktok. Even over the title track, it’s the most streamed song from this album, at least on Spotify. It’s a pop song wearing metal clothes, but it is a powerful anthem that reclaims a word used to degrade and deface. Are they breaking new ground, musically speaking? Not by a long shot, but when a woman is front and center of a metal band and letting the children have it, bringing a different energy along with it.
Perhaps the most straightforward metal song on the album is “You’re Gonna Listen,” featuring a ripper of a guitar solo from ex-Ozzy Osbourne axeman Jake E. Lee. It’s a punch in the face that closes the energetic first act of the record. The interlude “It Is Written” centers around music as a lover, estranged or otherwise, as a game-changer. In “Adrenalize,” it helped Maria feel like a god. Here, it does so even more, and we’re not even halfway through.
Where there is pain, there is healing, and “Burn” is a painful song, having been written after Maria found out her partner cheated on her. The pacing slows to a crackling flame’s, taking everything with it at a deliberate pace. Heavy and visceral as it is, the composition is so simple, with the piano riff rising above the conflagration. Following is “Scarlet,” which I’m frankly surprised didn’t come out as a single, as it bridges the gap between past and present In This Moment while still being infinitely accessible. Maria is able to explore her full vocal range, from her guarded lows to her lightly-fried highs.
“Aries” gives us a moment to let us up while preaching redemption and salvation, before “From the Ashes” gives us another nod to classic ITM. What comes next is a one-two punch of the power-pop anthem “Beast Within” and the war cry “Comanche.” The pace slows for “The Blood Legion,” which is misspelled on the back of some of the physical releases of the record, and the final interlude “11:11” reminds us it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.
That statement indeed applies to the album as a whole. There’s plenty to love here, and while Blood isn’t quite my favorite In This Moment record, the roots of what would follow on subsequent releases had to start somewhere. The band sought to find that aforementioned hellpop groove, and this was the test drive for it. Clearly something worked, as the band’s style has developed more in that pop-metal vein, right up through their most recent studio LP Mother. This transitional record has a lot going for it, and serves as the movement from maiden to mother for Maria Brink and her band.
Also, as far as the band’s cover of “Closer” which appears on the special edition release… it’s not bad. As sex-positive as this record and this phase of the band is, it makes sense to cover one of the horniest songs of all time, and while it doesn’t come close to the original article, you can’t blame them for trying.