Death metal, at least in its most modernistic and stereotypical actualization, largely eschews the cerebral in favor of the visceral, crafting violent soundscapes that reinforce instead of juxtapose the narratives of disfigurement, annihilation, and warfare that accompany the music. And…cut. For those not familiar with the Flesch Reading Ease scale, the higher the score the easier the text is to read, and Harvard Law Review generally sits around the 30 mark. In comparison, the promo blurb I read for Brazilian death metal act Burn the Mankind scored a 16 and my abomination achieved a -10.6. Integers, baby! It’s inspiring too, because I’ve just shown that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything, even out-hack absurdly pretentious promo blurbs! Thus it’s with high spirits and a throbbing lexicon that I go To Beyond.
While Mom always told me not to judge a book by its cover, she never said anything about records. To Beyond is clearly either very edgy metalcore (note the V replacing the U) or sterile modern death metal. Shockingly, I’m correct: Burn the Mankind throw Suffocation, Hate Eternal, Morbid Angel, and Behemoth into a woodchipper and attempt to make an audible Jackson Pollock painting out of it. Like Pollock’s work, a lot of things seem to be going on but when you look closer it’s just different colours of paint spewed any which way hoping someone finds some meaning in it. It’s like an audible forty-three minute long Rorschach test where the only wrong answer is worthwhile death metal.
Nowhere is this more telling than when I was trying to find To Beyond‘s standout tracks. I couldn’t, but instead managed to come up with parts that stood out in their own mediocre ways. “Lies” has a brief but decent melodic break that sounds like Hate Eternal took the appealing consonance in “Locust Swarm” a couple degrees further. There’s another quick burst of relatively satisfying melody in “The Gun” and this makes me wonder why the band didn’t just write more melodious stuff throughout the record. Burn the Mankind flirt heavily with Gateways to Annihilation in the midsection of “Cries” and do well enough to cop a feel and a get a phone number. Sure, it’s a wee bit commendable, but if this record ascended to the mountainous heights of “meh” it wouldn’t have made the “things I like here” cut.
To Beyond inspires unenthusiastic tolerance at its best. This is due to the previously mentioned scattershot appropriation and implementation of influences and a newly mentioned lack of songwriting dynamics. Burn the Mankind relies so heavily on blasting behind rote chugging riffs for intensity that it just becomes a nuisance to hear them. When the shameless pilfering of Nasum‘s “I Hate People” that appears in “Real Slave” feels refreshing by comparison, something’s rotten in the state of To Beyond. Breaking up the speed with the overextended and boring instrumental, “Vacuum” was an unsuccessful ploy, because by that point in the record the blasting had already stopped being intense, and when things eventually kick in after the further plodding in the intro of “Everyone is Blind,” it’s back to the same old same old, and the blasting quickly resumes its leading role as musical wallpaper.
To Beyond‘s production is predictably squashed, sterile, and lifeless. Clinical is another good term, especially because clinics generally have waiting rooms and this is about as visceral and exciting as reading last July’s Time while waiting for your tetanus shot. It’s clear to a fault and bass is actually audible, but ultimately To Beyond‘s sound is flat and uninspiring. Extra points for thematic unity with the music, I suppose.
I can’t fathom any reason for Burn the Mankind latest to enter into anyone’s rotation. To Beyond is irrelevant, lacking Morbid Angel‘s creativity, Suffocation‘s punishing brutality, Behemoth‘s hooks, and Hate Eternal‘s razor-sharp and less exploratory Azagthoth-isms. The record revolves around an “ethical-existential concept of a character” according to the band, so allow me to conclude on their terms. If death metal is Heidegger’s Being and Time, Burn the Mankind is Sartre and To Beyond is Existentialism is a Humanism: it’s a poor reading of the source material, and the entire enterprise is built upon it. Being and Time has an extended discussion I can’t summarize here on how everyone is essentially and at all times being-toward-death. To Beyond reinforced that, as my biggest takeaway is that I’m give or take eight hours closer to my own death having listened to it a dozen times. My gift to you, mirroring the “ethical” part of the press release, is saving you forty-three minutes of your time and the crushing realization that you wasted it on sub-par death metal.