Beaten to Death_UnpluggedBeaten to Death: standard grindcore band name, anything but a standard grindcore band. Featuring ex-She Said Destroy vocalist Anders Bakke, ex-The Cumshots guitarist Tommy Hjelm, and Tsjuder drummer Christian “Bartender” (aka AntiChristian aka Jorn‘s drummer since 2014, so you know he’s epic), Beaten to Death formed in 2010 and wasted no time putting out their first record Xes and Strokes just a year later. I missed this at the time because I am a tool, but fortunately Angry Metal Guy (or rather Jordan Campbell) was on hand to enlighten me come 2013 and the release of the band’s sophomore Dødsfest! I immediately fell in love with their spectacular genre-bending tomfoolery and Dødsfest! set up camp right at the summit of my end-of-year list (even featuring as an “ish” on AMG‘s). They are rather good, you see.

Though ostensibly a grindcore band, Beaten to Death have always had at least one foot out of the grind closet, and Unplugged pushes the limits of the genre further still. Their genius lies in an ability to marry incredibly aggressive vocals and drumming not only to the expected pummeling riffs, but also to remarkably uplifting melodies, creating a highly original style which, combined with their unique production choices, endows them with a sound quite unlike any other band. Outrageous opener “Papyrus Containing the Spell to Summon the Breath of Life Enshrined in the Collected Scrolls of Sheryl Crow” (sorry Vehemence, we have a new Song Title of the Year front-runner) provides a good example, commencing with traditional death/grind fury before segueing smoothly into major chords and legato riffs to end on an almost happy note. The combination of melody and brutality crops up in the majority of tracks, from the wonderfully named “Home of Phobia” (say it quickly) to closer “Troll,” with great dollops of groove chucked in between – see in particular the brooding “Knulleviser for Barn”1, and pulsating “Til Himmels (for å Gjete Gud)” that references the verse riff from Strapping Young Lad‘s “Love?” Only Napalm Death tribute “Greenway/Harris” is all grind, all the time, and quite rightly too.

Beaten to Death don’t just write fantastic riffs, they craft them into perfect little songs each with its own personality and charm. The track lengths on Unplugged are consistently between one and two minutes – short but not novelty length – which gives them enough time to develop and explore a couple of ideas without falling into the trap of creating riff soup. The amusing song titles are also cleverly applied: “Death to False Grindcore” features one of the prettiest melodies on the record, while “Robert Sylvester Kelly” bumps and grinds its way into the closet of your memory. “Don’t You Dare to Call Us Heavy Metal” is the winner here, though, teasing with stereotypical thrash riffs before launching into a rousing melodic chorus overlaid with repeated shouts of the song title. Attempts at humor often backfire for “serious” bands, but Beaten to Death get this spot on.

Beaten to Death_2015

The band’s previous records were both recorded live in their rehearsal space, giving them a refreshingly rough sound that bristled with energy. I couldn’t find any information on the recording process for Unplugged but assume it was much the same. It sounds a little better than its predecessor as the occasionally irritating frequencies in their trademark twangy, lightly distorted guitar tone have been tamed, and the instrumental balance feels perfect. Keeping the bass in a vortex of distortion while reigning it in on the guitars was a great choice as they still sound thunderously heavy, but can bring some subtlety to proceedings when required.

I am head over heels with this record: it fulfills my every grind need while providing a bucketload of depth, variety, and humor, all in a perfect run-time of just over twenty minutes. My one minor complaint is that, despite the superior songwriting, predecessor Dødsfest! probably has the edge in overall riff quality, but it’s tough to call. Either way, Unplugged is the best grindcore album of 2015 and Beaten to Death are the best grindcore band since Nasum. You know what to do.


Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Mas-Kina Recordings
Websites: beatentodeath.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/BeatentoDeath
Releases Worldwide: October 9th, 2015

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  1. My Norwegian is a little rusty, but I think this means… sex show for children?

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  • Vincere

    Fantastic album and review. The maelström of low-distortion grindy riff attacks and clean melodies makes this special flavour a treat for my ears. Grindcore can become clever and emotional, Unplugged is the brightest example available.

  • Hammersmith

    Hadn’t heard these guys before. The melody in the embedded song reminds me of Hopesfall’s No Wings to Speak Of. Gonna have to check out the rest of it!

  • El_Cuervo

    I’m not a huge grind guy so the fantastic melodies really take this over the top for me

  • Lasse Momme

    October keeps on spouting ridiculously high quality albums. It has been pretty brutal month for my wallet.

    • I suspect October will provide most of my 2015 top 10…

      • Lasse Momme

        It has really been quite extraordinary. There are still records from earlier in the year that weigh heavily on my list but the overall quality in october has been absolutely mind boggling. I’m having a hard time remembering any bad records at all from this month and on the other hand I’m also having hard time remembering all of the great ones.

  • Wilhelm

    Emo grindcore?

  • tomasjacobi

    Nice review. This band proves that good music is good music no matter what genre. I don’t normally listen to grindcore at all, but this stuff is just too good to ignore.
    I also discovered them from Jordan Campbell’s Dødsfest review. That guy is directly responsible for getting me into this band, Kowloon Walled City and Deafheaven. 3 bands I probably would’ve skipped if not for his words of praise.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Is he still a reverend?

      • tomasjacobi

        Not sure. I haven’t seen him write anything on Last Rites for a while now.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Didn´t Last Rites go belly up?

          • tomasjacobi

            Nope, it’s still on.
            yourlastrites[dot]com

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Thanks! a lot.

    • Kowloon Walled City is pretty cool, I should revisit them (not sold on the Deafheaven still!)

      • tomasjacobi

        Deafheaven just announced a Eurepean tour with Myrkur for next year. In a perfect world they would call it “Death to Trve Metal Tour 2016”

        • Haha, fabulous.

          I just missed Myrkur in London and would be delighted to see them, so this is half good news for me ;)

        • tim.o

          I tried to like Myrkur; but it’s Enya does Black Metal. Bleh.

          • tomasjacobi

            Try harder…

          • tim.o

            Hm… no; but I think we can agree that the new Deafheaven is fantastic. ; )
            Cheers

          • tomasjacobi

            Actually, if you have to reduce Myrkur to a reference, I’d say it’s Bergtatt-era Ulver with female vocals. Not bleh at all :-)

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    “Papyrus Containing the Spell to Summon the Breath of Life Enshrined in the Collected Scrolls of Sheryl Crow” ??

    Glad to see someone showing Nile the way to expand their lyrical scope.

  • Sheryl Crow ist krieg.

  • tim.o

    “Their genius lies in an ability to marry incredibly aggressive vocals
    and drumming not only to the expected pummeling riffs, but also to
    remarkably uplifting melodies, creating a highly original style which,
    combined with their unique production choices, endows them with a sound
    quite unlike any other band.”

    This. Great review. I don’t like Grindcore, but I am going to get this. It’s so intense, yet playful. Awesome.

  • Iliast

    Great review. If postgrind was a subgenre, this might fit the bill.

  • Pimpolho

    This is so weird. And great. Their melodies reminds me of the heaven for the deaf.

  • So, this isn’t an acoustic album then?

  • Kronos

    I played “Don’t You Dare to Call Us Heavy Metal” to a bunch of non-metal friends last night and each ant every one of them genuinely enjoyed it. It’s a fantastic song and this is a fantastic album.

  • Dødsfest set the bar really high. Looking forward to listening to this.

  • sir_c

    Napalm Death tested, Pig Destroyer approved… :-)

  • Luke_22

    Killer band and album. Grind doesn’t do much for me these days but these guys have such a fun and unique sound.

  • Very grateful to see some new good grindcore. Most post-Nasum bands don’t seem to put enough melody in there for my taste, but this sounds really outstanding. Thanks for the recommendation !

  • tomasjacobi

    “I couldn’t find any information on the recording process for Unplugged but assume it was much the same.”
    You assumed right. From the backside of the record cover:
    “All songs made played, and recorded live by the band, late summer 2014. No Fakeries. Mixed, not mastered, not produced.”

    • Mine was delivered the other week and I was pleased to see that on there :)

  • A phenomenal record! I only wish I had discovered this band earlier.