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Beneath The Massacre get a whole lot of hate, mainly due to their occasional deathcore styled breakdowns and their intense noodling. While a good portion of the time if you mix breakdowns with tech death wankery it normally ends up being pretty terrible (e.x. Abiotic's full length), Beneath The Massacre have done a delightful job of breaking that stereotype. The breakdowns are minimized on this release, which is something I know many of the more old school metalheads will find beneficial, sure you can still find a small number of them sprinkled throughout (e.x. The title track, Hunted, the ending of Light) but they usually don't last more than a few seconds and actually seem to have a reason to be in the song, instead of existing purely for mosh pit fodder, they actually add a bit of depth to the songs and they mak' the obvious brutality of the music that much more apparent. Another thing that I feel like most metalheads will appreciate is the really unique songwriting style they utilize. Instead of just simply sweeping away like some cracked out middle school janitor, Beneath The Massacre use riffs, and fucking masterful ones at that. Sure, there still are a few sporadic moments of the over-the-top sweep picking (Left Hand, It, Pedestal) but they exist with a purpose, often either being used for transitions or simply to add a chaotic element to the songs. It's cool to see a modern tech death band with occasional deathcore tendencies use the stereotypical tech/core sound and completely turn it on it's head.
Now, I need to give a special mention here to the quality of riffs used throughout. They are a HUGE step up from BTM's previous full length, Dystopia. Dystopia was really big on the breakdowns, and the tech moments were almost exclusively used to accentuate the breakdowns in that one, and while I didn't outright hate Dystopia, I was certainly disappointed in it. If you're heard BTM's follow up EP to that album, then you know that their songwriting has almost tripled as far as technique and ability goes. The newest album Incongruous continues this trend as well. The sheer level of musicianship on this is impressive to say the least and the songs tend to take on a borderline neoclassical sound in parts (Unheard, Light, It), it's very cool honestly. There can be no doubting Christopher Bradley's abilities as a guitarist, or as a songwriter (although I cannot be certain how much he helped with the overall songwriting process) his use of solos is brilliant, and the guitars manage to display a very high level of technicality and dexterity without ever becoming redundant or obvious showboating.
Incongruous seems to be filled with improvements in just about every department (except the vocals, which didn't need any real improvement to begin with). The drumming is a huge step forward for example, earlier releases consisting of mainly blastbeats with a few crushing double bass segments, however on this one it has changed quite a bit! The drumming takes on a very sophisticated form, often being incredibly complex (Light, Hopes, Unheard, Left Hand) without becoming overly flashy. The drumfills are tastefully used and the cymbal play is often complementary to the guitar riffs, it's safe to say that this album will probably go down as Justin Rouselle's finest moment with Beneath The Massacre (he was replaced not long after this albums release by Patrice Hamelin of Quo Vadis fame). Elliot Desgagnes's vocals are still in top form, he sounds like a deranged bear being unleashed on a large crowd. His low pitched bark/growl is perfect for the music and it fits the album like a glove. The bass is really the only major downside to this release, its buried in the mix entirely and when it is heard it's obviously just following the guitar (which I guess is no easy feat). It's not a huge issue and doesn't really take away from the overall listening experience, but it is a shame, Dennis Bradley is obviously a talented bass player, it would be great if his bass sat a bit higher in the mix though.
Speaking of the mix, if you're looking for a old school Suffocation type production you're entire out of luck (and pretty stupid in my opinion). The production here is very clean and sterile, almost to the point of being mechanical even. I know some of you are going to hate the album for that fact alone, but with tech death I feel as though it's very important to be able to clearly hear every note, which is exactly what Beneath The Massacre achieve here. I've seen previous comments saying that the production seems flattened, I for one don't agree at all with that. I think the production fits the music perfectly, and that is exactly what any good production job should do, it's finely layered, it's crystal clear it's just an all around solid job.
Overall I feel like there are many people out there who are unfairly dismissing this album due to Beneath The Massacre's previous track record, and thats a damned shame. This album is by far the best thing the band has ever done, and if they improved this greatly since their last one, I literally cannot wait to see what they do next. You can tell that BTM is evolving rapidly into something atypical and they're finally blossoming into their own style. I'd recommend this album to anyone who's into tech death, anyone who is doubting this bands ability to write memorable songs and anyone willing to have their heads crushed by the sheer brutality, dexterity and speed that is on display here. Listening to this album was a wonderful experience for me, and I feel like it will be for those who haven't heard it yet as well. God damn, I cannot wait to see what they do next, nor can I wait to hear how their new drummer is going to sound with some original material backing him.
Beneath the Massacre have had their share of career ups and downs since their formation in 2004. The Quebec oriented Canadians found both their first EP and debut album to be generally welcomed amongst audiences. Undoubtedly talented and possessing all of the ingredients it takes to go far, the band soon found underground fame and began headlining tours. When their second full-length effort, Dystopia, dropped in 2008, Beneath the Massacre were met with a generally negative response from a disappointed crowd. Two years later a redeeming effort was made with their second EP, Marée Noire, which kept fans tied over long enough for a new record. Will the third full-length installment follow in the steps of its highly successful preceding EP?
Unfortunately not, absolutely all of the clear-layered production is gone in Incongruous and instead what is left are the ashes of an overproduced mess. From start to finish, the album is flat to the point where it sounds as if a steam-roller had passed over it a few times, squishing the layers together and fused them into one massive clump of clutter. Everything production-wise that Beneath the Massacre had done to better themselves has completely vanished and the content is impoverished.
The vocalist doesn't tend to change his range or pattern very often, so through the majority of the content there is nothing but an irritatingly consistent bland barking of gruff, inarticulate lyrics that overlay berserk instruments. This wouldn't be so inexcusable if the vocalist bothered to form all of his lyrics, but the way word fragments are just dropped randomly here and there makes the content sound sloppy.
There is one song present that gives a slight shimmer of hope, "It" has an incredible solo that suddenly bursts with clarity and an audible separation to all of the other elements present, so the band are proven capable to be able to achieve this effect and use it to their advantage, but yet they don't. The clarity continues from the solo and really lets the drums come through with more powerful clarity than anywhere else on this album. This effect fades away once the next riff takes over and like a curtain being pulled over, the content becomes one big audible blur once more.
Not all is lost on Incongruous, aside from the little explosion in "It" there is also "Left Hand". This song features some nice technical scales and sweeps spread around. The instrumental title track, "Incongruous", is unarguably the heaviest and most well structured song on the track listing and is also the shortest. "Pedestal" features some of the most extravagant double bass drumming in this material also.
While Beneath the Massacre are undoubtedly talented, their talents go to waste due to poorly chosen production values. The band proved that they could achieve a clear audible depth which is desperately needed given how much is going on in any given song. Without this, the instruments just consume each other.
Incongruous isn't terrible, but it's your basic run of the mill technical death metal with some generic brutality thrown in the cart. There isn't even really a whole lot in the way of breakdowns, and if it weren't for the few present this could pass for trying to be brutal technical death metal. This album falls incredibly short of the new heights reached by Marée Noire.
- Villi Thorne
Over their career, Beneath the Massacre is a band that, because of their increasing popularity, helped developing a brand of death metal which many might like to refer to as “technical wankery” or even “Brain Drill death metal”. This over-paced wall of sound kind of brutal music has generated an endless cult of clone bands, often fusing the aesthetics of modern deathcore with ridiculous guitar skills. Most bands are, in my opinion, pretty laughable as they use these competencies as an argument to make people think they create music of great quality. It is unfortunately not often the case but overshadowing these copy/pasted bands is none other than the originators themselves: Beneath the Massacre. With Incongruous, their newest album, the Montreal quartet strikes as violently as ever, only with more maturity and confidence.
This improvement could already be heard when they released the Marée Noire EP in 2010. These four new songs (not counting the interlude) were a pretty strong sign of their step up in terms of songwriting. By having a darker general vibe and better song structures, the band set the bar very high for itself. The riffs were better and the songs flowed way more smoothly. Their newest effort sounds just like an upgraded version of that EP. Everything is much more solid. There are no more predictable breakdowns thrown here and there (i.e. Reing of Terror, Nevermore) and no weird transitions between guitar parts (i.e The System’s Failure). There is one particular song called “It” which features the most impressive leads I’ve heard from guitarist Christopher Bradley. It is very reminiscent of Necrophagist due to its neoclassical orientation. There are absolutely no fillers on this record. Even the traditional interlude halfway through the album is the best one they’ve recorded yet, as it’s not just an uninspired breakdown or dull samples. It all flows in a brutal harmony of crazy riffs and improved drum patterns. In this matter, I’ve always felt that Justin Rousselle was very simplistic in style yet furious in speed. It’s not the case anymore as he succeeds in adding an extra creative performance in these evermore chaotic rhythms. The bass guitar is definitely there but is hard to isolate over the course of your listens. All I can say is its crunchy distorted tone is probably more appreciable than its prowess. Vocally, Elliot Desgagnés provides what he does best as usual. He still sounds like a bear, which couldn’t be more accurate for a band like this. The vocals are monstrous and are sung with the catchiest vocal patterns, something common to all of Beneath the Massacre’s work. On a less positive note, I’ve always thought they lacked variety but since they fit the music so well, it’s easily forgettable.
This time, after years of blind trust recording with Yannick St-Amand (ex-Despised Icon), they’ve chosen to record with Cryptopsy’s own Chris Donaldson who also engineered Marée Noire. It seems this man is capable of the impossible. Beneath the Massacre have often been accused of sounding too mechanical and fake. This is due mostly to the drums which relied a lot on editing in previous albums. I don’t know if that issue has been completely solved but they definitely sound more natural on Incongruous. It sounds right how that kind of metal should in order to be efficient. The drums are fat and the guitars are destructive.Then, the bass line just adds a little crunch et voilà! As for the vocals, they do sound processed but repeated listens of this album made me realize how they do not rely on multiple layers, as opposed to most vocalists’ studio performance nowadays. Elliot’s reputation therefore remains intact. The general feel of the album’s production is that it’s very heavy and well balanced. Every instrument stands out and makes it highly enjoyable. This is no surprise since renowned producer Alan Douches once again handled the mastering of this opus.
Incongruous pretty much rectifies every flaw Beneath the Massacre ever had. While Evidence of Inequity lacked structure and Mechanics of Dysfunction lacked riffs, Incongruous really succeeds where those albums failed. Even the childishly catchy Dystopia is surpassed by this new offering. Incongruous clearly redefines Beneath the Massacre’s sound. As Elliot told SkullBones, “I think you can hear that we are getting more mature with each new album and we personally feel we are getting closer to the sound we've always been going for but couldn't exactly nail it down.”
While I normally seem to focus on newer music and probably 2/3 of my digital library is post 2000, I never really seem to be one of those first voices out. When I tackle something newer, it's typically been out for a few months and people who are interested have probably heard it already. That's why this is kind of new territory for me, as I'm not usually the "buyer's guide" type writer. But regardless, here I sit with the new Brain Drill album, Incongruous, one of the more anticipated releases of early 2012 within mainstream extreme metal.
Wait, did I say Brain Drill back there? Silly me, that's an understandable mistake to make, since I put this album and Quantum Catastrophe in a playlist and shuffled the songs and couldn't determine which album was playing without cheating. Beneath the Massacre seems to have a bit of a history under their belts, but this is my first conscious taste of the band, and all I can fucking think about are other bands this sounds like. I don't mean to say that these Quebecois tech noodlers are ripping anybody off, not at all. I mean that Incongruous is a safe and predictable release in a dull niche genre. Let's get something straight, I like overproduced, salad shooter tech death. I've given positive reviews to Origin and Decrepit Birth, Neuraxis ranked on my year end "best of" list last year, I jerk off Fleshgod Apocalypse every chance I get, I like Anata and Psycroptic and Deeds of Flesh and Severed Savior and other bands of this ilk. Where I draw the line and start to say the style itself is flawed is when bands like Brain Drill, Rings of Saturn, and Beneath the Massacre start shitting all over the concept of songwriting and just four finger tap sweep listeners into oblivion. Some of the aforementioned bands base their songs on meaty hyperspeed riffs, others load all the melody they can imagine into their music, and then there are the bands like this, who just throw everything they can into the music and it just ends up dull across the board. The only band that does this well enough to get away with is probably Origin.
So basically if you read my reviews for Brain Drill or Rings of Saturn, you know what my problems are with Incongruous here. The notion of songwriting in the traditional sense has been thrown out the window from the highest suite of the Burj Khalifa, and replaced with hundreds of warm up exercises. I get it, y'all can play your instruments as well as anybody else, but this shit is just lame. Show a bit of creativity somewhere, por favor. The songs all pretty much run together apart from a few exceptions. One is "Hopes" because it's the first time a traditional deathcore style slamdown shows up (though it could possibly be in earlier tracks, but if it does I've never noticed despite listening to this several times), and the second to last track, "Damages", for actually basing itself on a real riff as opposed to relentless blasting and fretboard wizardry. The aforementioned riff is actually extraordinarily good too and shows that the band is indeed capable of writing something memorable, but unfortunately the rest of the album is occupied by silly noodling that goes nowhere and doesn't stick with you at all. The vocals aren't much to sneeze at either, but unlike the other bands I compare them to, the sit in the lower register and never wander outside of their comfort zone, which is certainly a plus.
I wish there was more praise I could give this, but I just can't in good conscience. It's weak, it's overproduced, it isn't memorable, and it just blends in to the sea of faces. I can't describe it any better than Animal from the Muppets behind the kit, a bland vocalist, and guitarists/bassists who have spiders for hands. It's noodly and all over the place and doesn't have any lasting impact. I'd certainly recommend the track "Damages" because it's a legitimately really awesome track hidden away at the end of this forgettable mush, but if you're like me and can't get behind the likes of Brain Drill and Rings of Saturn, you can safely skip this. If you love that stuff, then by all means, this is for you.
Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/