Hey, whaddaya know? It's an American band playing Swedish melodic death metal with hardcore accents! Sorry, I couldn't help myself, but talk about a style that's been embraced by U.S. metal musicians from east to west and north to south! In this case, it's the California sextet WITH PASSION and the band's Earache debut, "In the Midst of Bloodied Soil".
Anyway, what we've got here is a very accomplished group of musicians playing a complex form of the Swedish style. While "hardcore" is used in the press release to partially describe the sound, there are really only hints of it present here, most notably the manner in which the harsh and unchanging mid-range vocals sound like ZAO and any number of other metalcorish bands; the album's weakest point. Metalcore is not necessarily an inaccurate description, but it doesn't do the band justice either. As for melody, it's a debatable point. What I mean is that these are not melodies you'll go away humming. However, as dissonant as the guitar work can sound at times, the band's got a way with forcing the harmony work up through the savagery. The fleet-fingered fretwork is usually played at breakneck speed and the bass guitar keeps pace. The arrangements (especially when heard on headphones) aren't just impressive from the standpoint of technicality; the playing is filled with fiery passion. Add a drumming style that is calamitous and the tunes often feel like a train that's about to derail.
It's not all unbridled aggression either. Helping WITH PASSION to stand out from the crowd is the pronounced use of keyboards that are really quite beautiful. When not heard as support for the arrangements, the keys are left standing in all their naked glory at several points throughout the album.
Obviously, the musicianship and ferocious delivery with a keyboard twist are more than worthy of note. "In the Midst of Bloodied Soil" impressed me enough to think that WITH PASSION may be capable of great achievement at some point in the future. On this album though I got a vague feeling that the band wasn't quite sure of what it wanted to be yet. I also didn't come away from the experience with anything more than respect for the musicianship and an appreciation for some damn interesting arrangements. In the final analysis, "In the Midst of Bloodied Soil" is an adventurous and enjoyable album. If it were all about chops, the rating would be a 9. It's not all about chops.