Written By: Gothmog
Post-metal has had a lot going for it in the past year. If you count it, The Ocean’s Pelagial was a remarkable work of art, as beautiful as it was heavy. Cult of Luna returned with the monstrous Vertikal last year and even gave fans more music with Vertikal II, the companion EP. And to add to it, Rosetta gave The Anaesthete to the world via Bandcamp, essentially for free. It’s a great time for post-metal, as so many bands are utilizing a sludge metal influence and bringing in big, chunky riffs to contrast the ambient clean guitars that usually follow the series of beatings. It’s essential post-metal 101, and bands seem to be sticking to that formula and doing adventurous things with it.
Despite the creative directions being taken within the genre, Chicago’s Beak play it relatively safe on their debut album, Let Time Begin. While you can’t blame the band for staying in their comfort zone the first go-around (even though their EP Eyrie dropped in 2012) Beak have a very traditional post-metal sound going on here that is listenable and enjoyable, but fails to give anything that stands out and sticks to you. Because, in all honestly, they’re a post-metal band by the rulebook and that seems to work for them.
All your post-metal requirements are here: massive riffs with the fuzzy guitar tones to match, pounding and driving drums, the shifting dynamics, the ambient clean guitar passages… It’s there. What Beak does right is that they seem self-aware that they’re appealing to people who enjoy post-metal, so they don’t try to be something they’re not. Serving as a textbook definition, they chug on through eight tracks, getting right to the point nearly as soon as the opening selection, “Souls in Streams” begins.
Beak is smart with their song lengths: they’re not too long and don’t overstay their welcome. Much like the old high school friend you run into in the supermarket who doesn’t hold you up for twenty minutes, Beak are getting right to the point with everything. There’s very little teasing and they give you room to breathe after the thundering riffs and syncopated accents.
While the directness is nice and all, it doesn’t help lift the material to anything remarkable. By the time the title track begins, you’ll know what to expect and it continues onward from there. The lead guitar parts are nice, and the rare, head-voice clean vocals are interesting, but things just become too obvious and it’s clear where the songs are going and what the band is going to do.
To add to it, the production just gives off a “been there, done that” sound. You know what they’re gonna sound like, and you know what the next song is gonna sound like. The guitars and bass have a heavy low end, the drums are giving off a death march, and the vocals add extra dissonance to the mix when the guitars don’t. If you’ve heard a basic post-metal album before, then the overall sound of the album should be of no surprise. From start to finish, everything starts following this post-metal pattern and never deviates.
It’s not Cult of Luna, that’s for sure, but the directness helps Let Time Begin be a safe post-metal album that gives you exactly what you’re expecting. Not every album can be revolutionary, and that’s okay, because Beak aren’t trying to be anything more than what they are. There is always room for experimentation in the future, and Beak have all the time in the world to come out on top, but for now they’re giving us something with no surprises that may hold over your cravings until a more interesting post-metal project comes along.