Released: 2008, Prosthetic Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Blending the raging death metal of Suffocation with insane breakdowns and flawless technicality, Montréal, Quebec’s Beneath The Massacre came out of nowhere in 2005 with their five-song EP, EVIDENCE OF INEQUITY, earning a well-deserved nod from me as Best New Band. Last year’s MECHANICS OF DYSFUNCTION upped the ante with better production and the same jaw-dropping mastery of their instruments. It has only been eighteen months but Beneath The Massacre continue to annihilate, decimate and dominate on their second full-length release, DYSTOPIA. Once again helmed by Yannick St-Amand (Despised Icon, Martyr, Neuraxis), the band’s blazing speed is captured with sonic perfection and the heaviest, most gut-churning breakdowns ravage the listener from start to finish. The same sense of repetition drifts in, though, with many of the songs sounding nearly identical to one another but the band has learned that laying off the gas pedal here and there isn’t a bad thing with a few on-a-dime tempo shifts that make the listener stand up and take notice. The speed alone can make DYSTOPIA a challenging listen but fans of the genre will be hard-pressed to name a heavier, better-played and more headbangingly-engaging record this year.
As Beneath The Massacre has been prone to do, the record opens with an eye-popping display of axe mastery from Christopher Bradley on “Condemned.” Technical doesn’t begin to describe the fleet-fingered agility that Bradley executes here. Not just a pedal-to-the-metal race, the track slows to a crawl with Dennis Bradley’s rubbery bassline for the first of many, many breakdowns. “Our Common Grave” bounces along on a flailing guitar lead with Justin Rousselle’s drumming moving fluidly between blastbeats and hard-hitting grooves. “Harvest of Hate,” perhaps the heaviest and speediest song on the record, crushes everything in its path before Bradley once again amazes with a guitar solo that is so busy and yet so clean. “Never More,” a highlight from EVIDENCE OF INEQUITY, has been re-recorded here but the same melodic flair that made the original stand out has been saved. The improved production only makes the lurching tempo of the chorus and its simultaneous breakdowns seem even more teeth-rattling and brutal. It isn’t really until the last song, “Procreating The Infection,” that DYSTOPIA shows its unique personality. Playing down the riffs and blasting a bit, the song proves that, while no less challenging or technical, these guys can actually write a solid death metal song, too. Rather than fighting for his place in the mix, Elliot Desgagnés’ angry pitbull vocals get a little room to breathe here and the result certainly would not be something the band should ignore in the future.
Beneath The Massacre is certainly less “core” many in the endless parade of splatter-logo bands popping up everywhere with a stronger focus on death metal and less catering to the floor-punching and spin kick demographic. DYSTOPIA is a solid step in the right direction to separate the band from the copycats but fans of previous releases will not be left out in the cold, either. There are obvious limitations and expectations within the genre but for a half-hour of dizzying, technical brutal death metal that will please fans of Origin, Despised Icon, Suffocation and Whitechapel, DYSTOPIA might just be record of the year.
KILLER KUTS: “”Condemned,” “Our Common Grave,” “Harvest of Hate,” “Never More,” “Procreating The Infection”