Tech Death Thursday: Beneath
Beneath is back and they’re conquering the galaxy. Tech death in spaaaaaaace!
- Order of Diptera just released a new song, and my initial misreading of its title led me to believe it was centered around a cabal of rodents riding public transportation. Check out “Ordo Est Vermibus” if you’re into ugly Abhorrent-style tech, and look for the band’s debut full-length next year on The Artisan Era.
- Inanimate Existence Underneath a Melting Sky full stream here. No more needs to be said.
- We’ve got another new song from Archspire, and it puts everything else they’ve done to shame. Besides the even more ludicrous technical panache on display here, it’s easily their best composition to date. Don’t sleep on this one.
- Melodic tech death band Dessiderium has a new single up on their Bandcamp, and it’s super happy. Give “Streaks” a listen if you think tech death needs more songs in major keys.
- The Walking Dead Orchestra sounds like they should be AMC’s private music group for the eponymous show, but the music might be a bit heavier than what they’re looking for. Also, calling a five-piece death metal outfit an “orchestra” is stretching it just a little bit. In any case, they’ve got a new song out and a new album on the way for October 13th. Give that a listen if you want some deathcore that doesn’t suck.
The news of a new Beneath album brought me both surprise and excitement; surprise because I somehow forgot they existed, and then excitement when I remembered how great their last album was. Their sound on 2014’s The Barren Throne was similar in a lot of ways to the dearly departed Kronos, a more technical take on the Italian “Always Be Blasting™” style of death metal. What set them apart was their penchant for counterpoint; even at Throne’s lowest points, the guitars were almost always performing distinct parts from each other, making for a much more compelling listen than the rote passages of many similar acts. As a lot of these bands don’t really change over time, I settled in for some more speedy modern death metal and hit play.
That was not at all what I got. Beneath set out to improve on Ephemeris, and it shows. The basic principle of “speed+counterpoint=success” is still largely intact, but even that is approached differently and with a greater degree of complexity. Throne’s songs moved along at a near-constant sprint and could be a bit of a tiring listen as such. Ephemeris is much more measured and well-paced; those stretches of tremolo picking aren’t gone, but they don’t form the baseline of every song anymore. Even songs such as “Guillotine” that are built on these parts are supplemented by huge, meaty grooves and haunting dissonant chords. The tremolo parts themselves tend to move around a bit more, too, and they do it without sounding like they’re simply trying to make it more complex. There’s thought and direction behind each passage, and nothing overstays its welcome.
All of this results in succinct yet well-developed songs that feel like a mixture of Wormed and Immolation, with the uncompromising heaviness of the former and the complexity and overall character of the latter. There are some other surprises scattered throughout that tie in with the album’s sci-fi galactic colonization themes as well. “Cities of the Outer Reaches” combines low-tempo polyrhythms, shifting time signatures, and odd chords and harmonies for a suitably alien feel, and the constantly morphing “Constellational Transformation” and “Medium Obscurum” will be enough to satisfy both the biggest death metal purists and prog nerds.
Ephemeris is surprisingly dense given its concise run time of 36 minutes. It’s packed from start to finish with all kinds of ideas and nary a moment of filler or downtime. If there’s room for improvement anywhere, it’s in the production. To be sure, it doesn’t sound bad- everything is crisp and clear, and it’s not too hard on the ears- but more organic production would do wonders for it. I can’t help but imagine what Ephemeris would sound like if it got the Starspawn treatment, though; the music is perfect for it, and I hope they go in that direction on the next record. Regardless, the music is ultimately what counts here, and it more than makes up for any production woes. It’s an all-around good death metal album; check this one out even if tech death isn’t your go-to. You’ll probably find yourself enjoying it.
Epehemeris is out now, available at Unique Leader’s Bandcamp and web store. Go spread the Toilet odor around Beneath’s Facebook page, too. That’s all for this time, and as always,
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