It's often you'll find that at some point in their career bands are faced with a crossroads: stick or twist. Twist and you risk alienating your current fanbase, stick and you run the chance of being called predictable - it's somewhat of a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situation. With all that being said though, it's rare that a band find themselves in this predicament before recording their sophomore record.
But this was very much the case for Harrogate's Blood Youth. Their debut album Beyond Repair can be considered nothing short of a success - garnering critical acclaim, putting them on pretty much every alternative festival you could think of, and getting them on tours with the likes of Stone Sour - it's fair to say the bands debut record kicked off their career with aplomb. And yet, when the time came to pen album two, Blood Youth felt obliged to test themselves to a limit they never had before. Vocalist Kaya Tarus was at the forefront of this expansion, as he explains: "I look at Beyond Repair as a kind of extension of the two EP's [we'd done], when we were writing that album [Beyond Repair] it was very safe. We knew that when releasing that album everyone that already liked us would like those songs, we were very uncomfortable with the fact that a lot of people thought that they had figured us out as a band. That got under our skin so much, so we thought fuck it, let's throw everything out the window and start again."
As if the concept of throwing your musical style into the blender on your sophomore record wasn't brave enough, the four piece were already half way through a new record when they decided to make the change. "We wrote half an album and it sounded exactly like Beyond Repair, and we were just like: what's the point of being musicians if you're not going to try something different?"
Different describes new record 'Starve' to a T. And as Kaya has previously mentioned, Blood Youth's sophomore record takes a leap into sonic darkness that would have been impossible to anticipate. Melody squeezes its way into the album in small, yet effective doses. The beaming chorus of 'Cut Me Open' sounds all the more colossal down to the lack of clean singing almost anywhere else on the album.
A leap into a darker, more nu metal musical style in 2019 is almost as ambitious as it gets, but there was no one in camp Blood Youth opposing the dive. "Everyone was on it, everyone was really refreshed by what we were doing. Of course, everyone was a bit anxious because it was so different but we wouldn't have put out an album if everybody wasn't fully in. We don't work like that, nobody gets undermined. Me and Chris do a majority of the songwriting but Sam and Matt have a huge say as well, if there was something they didn't like we would all sit together and change that."
One listen to Starve and you get a true sense of how much the album reflects who Blood Youth want to be. The intimacy, and harrowing nature of tracks like 'Nerve', 'Stone.Tape.Theory', and 'Exhale' tell the story of a band who are fully committed to this venture - this is the band they always wanted to be. "We always wanted to go heavier but we didn't want to do that straight away, we wanted to do it bit by bit. We wanted to shake things up so much, we wanted EVERYTHING to be different, and literally catch everyone off guard. I think how I'd put it is: this is the band that we've been evolving into."
It doesn't come as a surprise, but Blood Youth IS the life of Kaya and co. When he's not rekindling memories of having Christmas dinner in a petrol station in Germany, or the trials and tribulations he outs himself through just to make it through every day band life - he speaks fondly of the extent the four piece went to, to bring Starve to life. The albums picturesque horror movie homage was intentionally captured, and lived through by Kaya - whose struggles in 2018 paved the way for the records brash lyrical tone.
"2018 for me personally was one of the worst years of my life [because of] my depression, my anxiety, and my body etc. The days where we were off tour I'd just be sat in my room, in the dark going mental. There's a track called Nerve on the album which I find very difficult to listen to because all the works in the spoken word part are words that I'd wrote down while i was in the room, it's all very strange and real. I want to lyrically take people to that dark corner."
In a world where it seems like nu-metal hasn't been relevant for a lifetime, Blood Youth - a band theoretically still in their infancy, have a taken a daring leap into the unknown. In retrospect it's probably the best decision they could have made though, it's clear from Kaya's verbiage the band didn't see much future for them in metalcore - and they weren't willing the chase the ghost. In Blood Youth we have a young band that understand their audience, but more importantly understand themselves too, and Starve is very much a situation where the reward was worth the risk.
You can listen to the interview in full on episode 7 of the Noizze Podcast: