Released: 2017, Unique Leader Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
In an era when tech-death fancy schmancy is all the rage, it’s refreshing sometime to hear a band that’s more interested in good old fashioned brutality. For instance, Maltese behemoths Beheaded – who get the point across with their name alone and back it up musically with undeniable authority.
Beast Incarnate, the band’s fifth album and first in five years, doesn’t waste any time getting right down to business, opening with the furious title track and its flurry of blast beats and quick-cut riffs that recalls Suffocation only with less focus on complexity and more on raw power and momentum. “The Horror Breathes” follows with more of the same, topped by frontman Frank Calleja’s fire-breathing holler, as do “Crossing The House Of Knives” and the almost Napalm Death-like “Reign Of The Headless King,” all of which makes for a rather relentless first half.
It’s easy to see here where drummer Davide “BrutalDave” Billia, also of Hour of Penance, got his nickname. Making his debut with Beheaded, Billia is as much machine-gunner as drummer, firing off salvos in every direction while moving the band ever-forward at a steady sprint over most of Beast.
The eight-minute “The Black Death,” with its lengthy intro and murky chug, provides a rather jarring about-face midway through, echoing Morbid Angel’s “Where The Slime Lives” – indeed, the Morbid influence is rather prominent in several spots, especially dense, grim riffs of “Cursed Mediterranean.”
The epic closing track “Punishment Of The Grave” seems destined for the creepy-crawl approach as well, with its deliberate, haunting intro lick, but soon gives way to the near black metal clamor of Omar Grech and Simone Brigo’s frantic guitaring and Billia’s gallop. The long lead break at the end offers a hint of the kind of sophistication and dexterity the band are capable of, and of which the merciless Beast perhaps could have used a tad more.
Instead, Beheaded go for the throat from the outset and hold on like a “pitbull on a poodle” - to quote “Seinfeld’s” library cop Mr. Bookman. But sometimes erring on the side of brutality is the smart move, especially when it’s done with the tenacity demonstrated here.