Reviewed: [May, 2018]
Released: [2018 Unholy Anarchy Records]
Rating: [3 of 5]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Tech death, brutal death metal, deathcore and even a bit of symphonic death metal come together somewhat messily on the wildly ambitious full-length debut from New Hampshire’s Begat The Nephilim. Grab a fistful of The Black Dahlia Murder, Suicide Silence, Cattle Decapitation, Fleshgod Apocalypse – and even of bit of Between The Buried And Me – toss it all in a Cuisinart, set it on pulverize and you’ll have some idea of what these guys are all about. It ain’t pretty, but it certainly grabs your attention.
Take the album title alone, Begat the Nephilim I: The Surreptitious Prophecy/Mother of the Blasphemy. What the fuck? Apparently “it tells the tale of the Mother of Blasphemy, an ancient godlike Nephilim, her rise to power and the resulting consequences facing mankind and the world” – or so says the band’s promo materials. M’kay.
It’s not like you’re going to glean much of the thematic subtleties of songs like “Apotheosis of the Apocalypse pt. 1: In the Shadow of the Nephilim (a cold wind stirs the midnight air)” or “Apotheosis of the Apocalypse pt. 2: Dawn of the Nephilim (a warm wind breathes a new despair)” from frontman Tyler Smith anyway, given his multiple-personality growl/scream/bleat/squeal/puke vocal approach. It’s uber-brutal and utterly indecipherable, yet certainly effective and a perfect match for the band’s sonic tumult.
Though there are moments of elegance and grace here, with haunting piano/synth flourishes on “Cardboard Casket,” “Fervor For Flesh” and elsewhere, and some nimble, shreddy leadwork throughout, the bulk of the album is a chaotic mishmash of tech-death agility and deathcore bludgeon, with bits of slam ugliness here and there to contrast the surprisingly abundant melodicism – like the Spanish guitar interlude in “Modin” or the jazzy acoustic/piano intro to “Apotheosis of the Apocalypse pt. 1.” The band seem to be of the mind that any idea is a good idea here, so they pretty much have tossed everything into the pot.
And while it’s a lot to digest in the first listen or two, the method to their madness becomes a bit more clear after a few more spins. It doesn’t always work – and there is definitely too much going on here when the album is taken as a whole – but what a first sounded like a complete clusterfuck actually starts to gel and sound kinda rad the fourth or fifth time around. The back end of the album is especially strong, with “Apotheosis of the Apocalypse pt. 1” and “Pt. 2” bringing things to a cinematic close, mixing in more classical ingredients and leaving the pig squeals and breakdowns behind.
It will be interesting to see where Begat the Nephilim take their sound from here – either refining and honing it, or going farther off the deep end. They set the bar pretty high with their debut, and for the most part proved themselves up to the challenge. But this every easily could have been a complete disaster – and I’m sure there will be plenty of folks who give this a spin and think that’s what it is anyway and dismiss it then and there. I almost did.