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Seeking senses. - 65%

Diamhea, December 16th, 2016

Sammath Naur sure is an enigma of a band. From the eclectic, scintillating Anhedonia to rote, stale technical death metal like this? I didn't quite know what to make of Beyond the Limits for many years, ignorantly expecting its appeals to surface over repeated listenings. Sadly, nothing much came of it, and the band's silence ever since its release speaks to a collective groan of indifference. Once an avant-garde force to be feared, this is the album during which Sammath Naur blend into the Polish death metal pack, a collective sound at least reasonably worthy from a technical point of view, but other than said technicality, the band does little to truly enthrall here. The silly album cover and overarching vibe tries to play it cool and act like the band is just having fun with all of this, but something is clearly lost in translation here. Exactly what that is requires some dissection.

The band's viscera is hardly rotten, but some decay begins to set in the moment "Limits Are to Be Broken" reaches its halfway point, recycling stale death metal patterns filtered through a marginally modern framework. The collective pedigree of the musicians involved carries the album past the point of unabashed facelessness, but the band does little to make use of this momentum. To go positive, guitarist Valeo proves that he has chops that are sorely wasted on Vesania's later material, with some dense, suffocatingly precise and clinical chugging and the occasional obtuse, alien riffing style that earned the band the avant-garde tag earlier on. Said idiosyncrasies aren't quite as prominent here, but there are moments on tracks like "The Endless Cycle" wherein the band manages to find their earlier magic formula, but only to discard it shortly thereafter. Leads have some melodic aptitude as well, but the overall tone of the record is one of a futuristic, smog-drenched industrial dystopia - similar to many Polish death metal albums like Organic Hallucinosis.

The moments of blackened ichor also help add some character to an otherwise standard display of technical merits, but the absurd level of precision regarding the drums and enterprising riffing proves that there is still something to fear in this band, even at their presumed weakest. Fans of Vesania's heavier cuts like "Rest in Pain" and "God the Lux" will savor songs like "Ecstasy in Pain," which revel in angular, atypical leads and forward thinking songwriting. Drums blast like no tomorrow, but the precision of the fills is something else entirely. Sadly, these positives aren't enough to result in an album devoid of stagnation from soup to nuts, as many sections simply feel soulless and lack any sort of real resolution. Many songs just simply end abruptly, which is one of the most telling hallmarks of such deficiencies.

Beyond the Limits still has value, especially to die-hard technical death metal fans or those particularly invested in the Polish scene. I generally consider myself among the ranks of the latter, and that was enough for me to enjoy the album more than I expected to after the very negative first impressions I had with it. Not on par with what came before it by any means, at least the album checks the requisite genre boxes and punishes soundly by virtue of raw attrition. Disappointing, but still impressive at points.