Extreme metal has a problem: It’s aggressively conservative. For a culture that’s supposed to be about pushing forward – physically, intellectually, musically – it too often circles back into itself. The supposed outsiders and iconoclasts that comprise the metal scene rabidly pounce on opportunities to become insiders and conformists. Wanna write about metal? Rub the right elbows and suck ass for “access.” Wanna proclaim your allegiance to poseur-crushing death metal? Join a club. Wanna start a band? Grab a template and start building your box from the inside out.
Ah, you want to go for the gusto, don’t you? You want to start a band. Good for you. Now: What kind of metal do you want to play? Thrash metal? Death metal? Black metal? Because there are rules, kid. You need to tweak your tone. Bolster your BPM. Hire the right artist. Wear the right t-shirts. You need to minimize risk. Unless you were born with gigantic balls. And you’re Beaten To Death.
These zany Norwegian bastards – boasting members of Tsjuder and the brilliantly resurgent She Said Destroy – are shaking grindcore loose from its shackles. Combating a rigid adherence to dogma is especially difficult in the grindhouse trenches; it’s tough to get playful without losing the plot. Attempts at quirk often crash and burn, and the brightest grindstars – Wormrot, Gridlink, Blockheads – typically succeed on craftsmanship, not creativity. But on this sophomore album, Beaten To Death are determined to get reeeeal fuckin’ weird with it.
Dødsfest! is a delightful record. Why? Because Beaten To Death isn’t afraid of sucking. They’re absolutely devoid of pretense. Bursting with energy. Free of bullshit. Liberated by speed. They use extremism as a jetpack, not a moss-soaked fortress.
Metal tropes provide the bricks for these fortresses, and defense mechanisms provide the mortar. Why? Because metalheads – for all their outward rebellion – are afraid of rejection. At the basest level, they want to fit in. At their worst, they crave esteem. Regardless of ambition, these goals are achieved by following rules. They hide behind production values – near-zero on the passé necroblack end, overblown gloss on the tech-noodle side- in the hopes of building unsmashable walls between themselves and the listener.
Beaten To Death records their albums live in their rehearsal space, and the difference in approach is stark. Dødsfest! is crackling with rare energy, bouncing from rubber wall to rubber wall while beckoning you to enter the fray. Their brand of grind is boisterous and rounded, more inviting than abrasive, and more inventive than dogmatic. Most of the trad “heaviness” is provided by rumbling bass and standardized gurgle/screech tradeoffs. Beaten To Death invites genre-tweaking brilliance from their dexterous, schizophrenic guitar lines.
String-slingers Martin and Tommy deal mostly in bristling, glistening tones. Whether by juxtaposing elegant, alt-post-non-metal-
The final four tracks, highlighted by the manic positivity of “The Flesh Prince With Swell Hair” and the churning heckwreck of “Vinni Butterfly,” cement Dødsfest! as one of the year’s most invigorating works. It’s a six-day snapshot of a band getting naked and running amok, letting their goofball guitarists explore every mirth-packed impulse that they could shake at their frighteningly-tight kitsmasher. Not only is it as infectious as modern grind is ever going to get, but it’s also an affirmation of individuality. With risk comes reward: There’s not a band on the planet that sounds like Beaten To Death. In a world fraught with overcalculation, Dødsfest! is an off-the-cuff bitchfist of fresh air.
“When the going gets weird, the weird go pro.”