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Defunct Boston based band Beyond the Sixth Seal play melodic death metal, and before spilting up, it was more than possible that they could have been right at the top of the genre. This cd gets nothing but praise from me, and is also right at the top of my favorite albums for 2002.
The cd starts off with a fairly slow and somber piano piece for just over a minute, and then bursts into melodic death metal fury with impeccable aggressiveness that backs off only for a single minute during the paino outro to Faceless. Hailing from Boston might lead one to think there would be an abundance of hardcore elements within BtSS's style. Granted, their previous EP, A Homicide Divine, had a little bit of a hardcore/metalcore feel at times, but that sound has been shed on this cd, largely due to the replacement of the vocalist. The title track from said EP appears on Earth and Sphere, reworked to sound different and a whole lot better, and doesnt seem out of place on the cd.
At this point, it is safe to assume that, after tossing the whole hardcore thing aside, BtSS play a slightly Scandinavian influenced style of melodic death. Perhaps when you hear anything from that genre, you would rather rip your ears off with a rusty fork, but BtSS are not a lame generic band, and weather you enjoy the genre or not, you likely will at least appreciate this cd.
It is quite a task to compare this band to any other. Arch Enemy perhaps, but the song structures BtSS use are far too unique to equate to the Gothenburg style. The production is a little bit gritty, but that is the icing on the cake mixed with that of the drum sound, the not overly distorted guitar sound, the smooth bass sound, and the coarse, harsh vocals. The vocalist is in a league of his own. Some of his roars and growls are so low, it's just wickedly great to hear alongside melodic death. Think of the vocalist from Amon Amarth, lower and a lot harsher, and imagine he has been fed broken glass for three weeks, then you have yourself a fairly good example of what the lower vocals sound like. The vocals aren't all low and gutteral however, some reach a mid pitched rasp. There is even a moment of clean vocals sung in the background on the bonus track (available only on the digipack). If you are able to find the digipack, grab it, the untitled bonus is a good song, four and a half minutes long, which ends with a little bit of paino intertwined into a fadeoff riff. A nice ending to a damn fine cd...
There is more however, assuming you are listening to the digipack version. At the eight and a half minute mark there is another brief song, that seems to be closer to grind than anything else. The thing about this song though, as I've read in some interviews, is that it was written for children who are drawn to, and listen to metal at a very early age. Since most children could never understand (or would be to scared by) lyrics to songs like Empathological Necroticism, or Entrails Ripped From A Virgin's Cunt, BtSS have taken it upon themselves to add lyrics kids can enjoy and relate to:
"What is the Sound that a froggie makes? Ribbit. Ribbit. What is the sound that a piggie makes?...[ect]."
Yes it's a rather silly idea, but damn is that song heavy.
A great cd from start to finish. All melodic death metal fans should not pass this one by. Having disbanded, with 3 of their members currently only playing in The Red Chord, and the other 2 (assumingly) doing nothing makes me very sad. A memorable album, its a damn shame there won't be any more for this band.