Dial the clocks back to 2013, and it looked like Bleed From Within had the world at their feet. They had signed to Century Media and their third album, Uprising, was being met with acclaim. In a glowing 9/10 review, Hammer reviewer Nik Young described it as “vicious, driven, and irresistibly headbang-worthy.”
To top things off, they were on tour as the main support for Megadeth, where they hoped to learn some lessons from the thrash legends. Chief among them: don’t piss off a rock star’s bodyguard, particularly when they can bounce you off the walls like a ping-pong ball.
“Dave Mustaine requested we go to his dressing room…” BFW vocalist Scott Kennedy starts, a grin lighting his face up like the sun. “Ali [Richardson, drummer] burst in with a bottle of [caffeinated fortified wine] Buckfast and almost threw it in Mustaine’s face! Like, ‘’Ey lad, you ever tried this?’”
Ali sinks into his seat with the look of a man who has heard this story a million times and never gets any less embarrassed. Scott forges ahead undeterred, hooting with laughter as he recounts Dave Mustaine – the man who reportedly made Megadeth’s debut album on a diet of hamburgers and heroin – had to explain there wasn’t much he hadn’t tried.
“Aye,” Scott says, “But have ya tried this?”
The story speaks volumes about the band’s enthusiasm and inexperience at the time. This was evident almost 18 months later, when a deal-gone-wrong plunged the band into over £20,000 worth of debt. For a bunch of 20-somethings whose finances were – at that point at least – predicated on them being able to drop tools and go on tour for weeks on end, it seemed like a death sentence. Luckily, the music saw them through.
“It was too much to just walk away from, especially given what we’d already achieved,” Ali says.
Bleed From Within started life in 2005 as a jam project while its members were still teenagers. Based out of a local community centre in Hamilton – a town 15 miles southeast of Glasgow – its members would cover bands such as Lamb Of God and Pantera.
“Ashes Of The Wake was my holy grail,” Scott enthuses, while Ali professes that “the four-count at the start of Fucking Hostile was the moment I put the clarinet in the bin and picked up drumsticks.”
Over time, they began writing their own songs and bringing individual influences into the mix – a touch of Gothenburg here, shades of The Black Dahlia Murder there. They played anywhere that would host them, and when the local gigs dried up, they hit the road.
“We’d be thinking we’d fuckin’ made it because we were going out in a 15-seat minibus, gear all over the seats around where we’d sleep,” Ali says with a scoff. “You’d have eight cans before going onstage; if I could see some of that footage back, I’d be embarrassed beyond belief.”
Still, their efforts paid off, and in 2009 they released their debut record, Humanity. Aware that riches weren’t about to drop into their laps, the band held down part-time jobs at restaurants, bars and car washes to keep cash coming in. They soon realised that wasn’t going to work out, however.
“Every time we went on tour, we’d come back not knowing if we still had jobs,” Scott admits.
To remedy this, the members built careers outside Bleed From Within to ensure they had some level of financial stability – three members now own a company that specialises in motion graphics.
“The paths we’ve chosen are based on keeping the band going, essentially,” Ali explains. It wasn’t the rock’n’roll fantasy of sex, parties and swimming pools of Irn-Bru they might have hoped for, but it kept the dream alive. Now they just had to get past the next obstacle: gatekeepers.
In the early 2010s British metal scene, bands such as Bring Me The Horizon and Asking Alexandria were raked over the coals for everything from the way they dressed to the bands they toured with. Bleed From Within didn’t escape unscathed. Haters didn’t care that Bleed From Within were fusing turn-of-the-millennium Gothenburg with the neck-juddering groove of Pantera and Lamb Of God, or that their sound owed as much to classic thrash as it did to metalcore or deathcore.
What they cared about was that Scott ‘looked like Oli Sykes’ (he had a fringe), and that the band weren’t grizzled veterans of the metal scene (despite the fact they had been touring relentlessly for years by the time they started appearing on big bills). In their eyes – and to use their words – Bleed From Within were ‘a cookie-cutter shitty metal band for angsty teenage kids’.
“I’ve not bothered my arse with what people say about our band,” Ali says sagely, sounding like the Scottish Dalai Lama. “It was always our appearance that seemed to get judged above all else – especially because we were a group of small guys going out on these huge stages where you’d have folks like Dave Mustaine, Gene Hoglan or Chuck Billy. We’re wee guys compared to them!”
Forced to take a three-year break from touring while they resolved their myriad legal and financial issues, Bleed From Within re-emerged in 2018 as a band reborn. With both Era and its 2020 follow-up, Fracture, they reasserted their place alongside the likes of While She Sleeps and Architects as one of the hottest metal bands in the UK.
Appearances at Download Pilot and Bloodstock over summer 2021 saw them greeted as conquering heroes, crowds chanting their name and singing along. Then, as if to prove just how far they had come, those scenes repeated later in the year when Bleed From Within played some of their biggest shows to date, supporting Bullet For My Valentine in UK arenas before embarking on a sold-out headline tour in their own right.
“The crowd were singing so loud every single night, for every single song,” Scott says. “It left me speechless.”
“Each show seemed to be more wild than the last,” Ali adds excitedly. “Crowdsurfers, pits and sing-alongs the whole time. In Glasgow they had to stop counting the surfers after track three. The next few years are going to be fucking mental."
As if to illustrate that point, the band’s sixth album, Shrine, is their most ambitious to date. Lead single I Am Damnation set the stage in November by boasting some of the biggest riffs and hooks of the band’s career, but that’s just a small taste of what is to come.
The characteristic PMA that has powered the band through dark times thus far is still present and correct, but is joined by musings on the nature of mortality that naturally come with age. Levitate’s soaring symphonies are at odds with its lyrical content concerning dementia, based on Scott’s experiences with his grandmother. Elsewhere, Killing Time was inspired by an incident where Ali attempted to resuscitate a heart attack victim, although sadly in vain.
“It really made me reflect on my mortality and what I do with the time I’ve got,” he admits.
And then there’s the music. With industrial beats, electronica and full symphonies courtesy of the Parallax Orchestra – who’ve worked with BMTH and Architects – Shrine could well be a modern British classic, up there with chart-raiding epics such as You Are We, Sempiternal, or For Those That Wish To Exist – a record that topped the UK charts in February 2021.
“Bands like Architects getting to No.1 in the charts is so exciting,” Scott enthuses.
“It’s exciting to have any guitar music in the charts, even if it’s not metal,” Ali adds. “Just look at Bring Me The Horizon – playing to thousands of people around the country and collaborating with Ed Sheeran. One of the biggest artists on the planet collaborating with a heavy band.”
Like the spider in Scottish folklore that wouldn’t give up its attempts to weave a web, inspiring Robert The Bruce to fight for – and ultimately win – Scottish independence, Bleed From Within have faced their setbacks and obstacles with a sense of perseverance and pragmatism. With Shrine on the horizon, at this point the sky’s the limit – but the band aren’t about to get ahead of themselves.
“The bad situations we’ve got in as a band have come from chasing a dream and not living for the reality,” Scott says soberly. That doesn’t mean they’ve lost their sense of ambition, though.
“When bands like Rammstein, Iron Maiden and Metallica are no more, we’ll see a real change. Bring Me The Horizon will be headlining festivals those bands would usually do and everybody else will jump up, too,” says Ali. “The naysayers are going to be fucking furious, but they have to deal with it. The new wave of metal is already in front of them. Get your head out of your arse!”
Shrine is out now via Nuclear Blast