Have you ever been so worked up that you just want to smash your goddamn head through a fucking wall? Well, now, for only three easy payments of $3.99, you can smash your head straight through some drywall. Simply play this record at a volume nearing ludicrous and run full steam at any wall made out of drywall (be careful to avoid studs) and you will be able to power directly through the wall. Almost like the Kool-Aid man except you won’t have to look like a fat pitcher full of sugar water. You can look like you, which I assume is a well-muscled machine of oiled flesh that is capable of running through a fucking wall at a moment’s notice just because this music was powerful enough to command you to do so.
Up until this point, Iceland’s Beneath has served mostly as an outlier to the Icelandic sound (if such a thing exists, which it does). They have been a squarely generic brutal death metal act. Their prior works, particularly their two full-lengths, are full of pleasurable riffs, rote drumwork and deep vocals. This isn’t to say those albums are bad, they are just as they are: generic brutal death metal.
Release date: 8/18/2017
Label: Unique Leader
With Ephemeris things have altered. It seems like the members woke up and collectively decided to add some pacing changes, a few slick clean-guitar breaks and a whole bunch of chug-a-chug, floor-stomping rhythmic riffs.They aren’t out of the woods yet, generically speaking, but they are now producing music that could fuel a bear engaged in a slaughterfest of spawning salmon anxiously leaping into his mouth and being torn apart by his claws. What that means is, the quality has taken leaps and bounds forward. What was once a brutal death metal act for teens is now a full-fledge death metal outfit for adults, weightlifters and demolition derby bus drivers alike.
So what makes this album so much better? Well, first off, the production. The mid-heavy tonality makes for a more blanketing, cohesive feel all around. Second, the guitar tone is just thicker, meatier and more pulverizing. Third, the drums are crisp, clean and ready to pummel you square in the onion sack. Finally, the vocal changes are subtle but the meatier growl is only enhanced by being folded seamlessly into the production.
Safe to assume that the title was chosen because the boys in Beneath really liked “Ephemeris” as a track. Probably because it absolutely slams straight out of the gate like a pissed off mare attempting to spoil a Triple Crown run at The Belmont. But, it also has plenty of the forward looking technical runs and more subdued, open passages with melodic guitar lines supported by blistering double bass making it a fine representation of what you can expect across the album of the same name.
The longest track, “Cities of the Outer Reaches,” belies the band’s more brutal approach, replacing it with a dash of the cosmic and a pinch of the more technical. It’s at this point that the album takes a slight turn away from the more chugging, breakdown-laden approach of the first half. It’s here that the two styles, the more chuggy first half and the more technical second half meet in a venn diagram of sorts. It’s a welcome turn as prior efforts have tended to fall flat feeling one-note. As the bottom falls out, and the guitars take the lead on a fuzzy path towards cosmopolis, Beneath prepare to launch the big guns: blistering beats and quickly-picked, single note riffs carefully matched to low, growling, rhythmic vocals. The result is a band showing that they are far more capable than previously imagined.
The closing track, “Multiangular,” is likely the best descriptor to Beneath’s new(er) approach. “Multiangular” is just that. It opens in a flurry of swirling rage and torment and slowly attacks that emotion with different musical approaches. Discordance, which the band finally realized is a helpful tactic, dominates the second swath alternating with diminished lead runs and then, with a bugle-like call from the lead guitar, the track descends into a blend of what they’ve done so well across the previous eight tracks. Drums remain intense, guitars display true melody, vocals continue to use almost laid-back rhythms and it’s all seamlessly blended together to create a finish that leads directly back to where it started.
This probably isn’t as high as Beneath can fly. They likely have a few more fathoms above them. But that’s a good thing, because only three albums into their career, it’s definitely exciting to think of what these guys could do next. And it seems like the directions are endless. They’ve got the talent to wander off into the tech hemisphere and they’ve got the compositional chops to move into slightly more melodic death metal. Whichever path they choose, I’m happy they gave us Ephemeris, and my lats and traps are happy too.