Like so many other rock bands, Crossfade has adjusted to the harsh reality that few albums sell a lot of copies anymore. It's a fact that came as a shock to Ed Sloan, the lead singer of this hard-rock band from Columbia, S.C.
Crossfade's self-titled 2004 debut sold more than a million copies. Sales of their 2006 follow-up album, Falling Away, fell by 80%. Columbia Records dropped the band in 2008.
"Coming off the success of the first record and losing our way after the second album hit me hard," says Sloan in press materials. "You get signed, everything is golden, and you think it'll go on forever."
Sloan was consumed with doubt. "Music had always been my escape, but then music became my enemy. I shut down as a songwriter and, actually, pretty much as a human being."
But the music industry's implosion has had a liberating side, too. The songwriting limitations imposed by major-label executives are gone.
So it's no surprise that the band's new, independently released We All Bleed is Crossfade's best and most emotionally complex record yet.
The first single is "Killing Me Inside." The lyrics tell of vivid dreams that feel real. It's an accessible hard-rock song that follows the same loud-quiet-loud pop formula as the band's most famous tune, "So Cold."
From there, Crossfade's experimentation gets exhilarating. "Dead Memories" adds few lyrics to an instrumental journey that showcases the emotional power of the electric guitar.
"Prove Me Wrong" surprises by adding electronics to the band's sonic toolbox. "Dear Cocaine" is the kind of pensive hard-rock ballad that Alice in Chains mastered in the early 1990s. The song is an angry letter to the drug, professing resistance to its allure.
Sloan has credited guitarist Les Hall, a childhood friend, with energizing the band and its songwriting. Hall joined Crossfade in 2008. Says Sloan, "Les had a big part in rejuvenating my soul, to get out of my slump and focus on music again."