Beaten to Death – Sunrise over Rigor Mortis Review

‘Idiosyncratic’ hardly begins to describe Norway’s Beaten to Death. Contrary to their brutal name, what they offer is avant-garde, melodic grindcore that knows no equal in the musical world. Their releases have received relentless adoration from a variety of Angry Metal Guy writers, transitioning from the boundary-smashing Dodsfest!, through the melodic sparkle of Unplugged, through the groovy Agronomicon and finally to the ingenious absurdity of Laat maar, ik verhuis naar het bos. There are few other bands that bridge the broad tastes of the AMG writing crew quite as well as B2D. After the questionable marketing strategy of releasing their prior album as 4 EPs before finally fusing them together, 2024’s Sunrise over Rigor Mortis is a remarkably straightforward affair. 9 tracks over 18 minutes, promising all the grinding goodness previously offered. What has the group been up to for the last 3 years?

My first response was “yeah. They’ve been doing B2D things.” Sunrise is stuffed full of those janky guitar chords and that skittish songwriting that these guys love. It fuses passages of staccato angles, dirty riffs, and dancing layers that sway between the lines. Their music is unhinged but never unwelcome. They offer incredible variety and dynamism compared with most bands of any type, let alone rote grind ones. The opener called “Dalbane” (“Coaster”) forms just 67 seconds of madness that switches from a purring rhythmic lead to intense grind, to wicked cries, to call-and-response chants. It’s a reminder that no one else makes music like B2D, even after 50 years of genre stratification since hard rock first existed. These Norwegians make true uniqueness look effortlessly easy and cool.

B2D bend their unique sound into a few key highlights across Sunrise. Among their ridiculous gurgles and shrieks, the soft singing on “Dying the Dream” is surprisingly compelling; I might enjoy more of these counter-points in future. Their signature shredding guitar and obscene sense of fun is exemplified on this record by “Mosh for Mika (Waddle Waddle).” Down-tuned chugs become stomping grind become warped melodic guitars become submerged distortion effects. It’s intense but enjoyable. Likewise, the back half of “We’re Not Gonna Make It” takes an unexpected corner into a grand, uplifting march, representing a strange but uplifting climax to the album. To my mind this would best fit as the overall conclusion but B2D insist on expectation subversion by following this with one more track of their standard fare. It isn’t quite as satisfying as it would have been if it really were the last track. The flow of the record is disrupted as a result.

Sunrise is essentially still very cool. But the best yardstick of a new release is the same band’s prior material, and this is where it gets stuck in the mud. For a group with such avant-garde sensibilities, it’s remarkably predictable when compared with their B2D’s typically unpredictable approach. It also lacks those diamonds in the rough that elevate their best material. Prior records have highlights that constitute some of my favorite songs of their respective years, including those with great riffs and shout-along passages. But if I were making a ‘best of’ B2D compilation, I doubt I’d include anything from Sunrise, even with the highlights noted above. The songs here are simply less exciting and memorable than previously. Having said this, the fact that it’s the shortest of several very short albums means it’s extremely difficult to become tired, especially with its energetic, punchy songwriting. I’ll never not be entertained by reaching side B of a record within ten minutes.

B2D doing B2D things is still generally better than other bands doing other band things. But I can’t help but feel disappointed by this release which is easily the most average of their output since I first heard them over a decade ago. Sunrise remains a firm recommendation for anyone as yet unfamiliar with the band because their idiosyncrasy is alive and well. But for those existing fans it’s harder to recommend this album as it’s not better than anything else they’ve released. It’s worthwhile, but not as worthwhile as everything before.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 31 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Mas-Kina Recordings
Websites: beatentodeath.net | beatentodeath.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/beatentodeath
Releases Worldwide: May 31st, 2024


Beaten to Dolph

I would say that Beaten to Death needs no introduction, but the already niche enjoyment that grindcore provides amongst metal denizens functions as a barrier. Perhaps the unfortunate algorithmic qualities of searching “beaten to death” hinders them in some way as well.2 Not to mention the band rarely ventures outside their native Norway,3 so greater European exposure (that could lead to wider base) doesn’t net much either. Whether indebted or inhibited by their furious punk DIY spirit, Beaten to Death persists. And as a result of that indomitable will to grind, Sunrise over Rigor Mortis emerges to serve another dose of their patented Telecaster-chug madness via their own Mas-Kina Recordings.

Ideally, you’ve blocked off a little more than the just under twenty minutes that Sunrise takes if you’ve not yet acquainted yourself with the B2D. Between the avant-chaotic-hardcore 2011 debut Xes and Strokes, 2013’s iconic and unshackling Dødsfest!, 2015’s near equal Unplugged, 2018’s still kickin’ Agronomicon, and 2020’s EP collection Laat maar, ik verhuis naar het bos, there’s about an hour and forty-five minutes of eclectic, unpredictable, punk-infested melodic madness to absorb. For many bands of this rip-fast-and-faster style, that’s about an hour and a half too much, but with B2D, each album brings something a little new to the table—an unadulterated abandon (Dødsfest!), creeping sadness (Unplugged), extra tongue-in-cheek (Agronomicon), or an avant-narrative structure littered with oddities (Laat maar)—all while maintaining a live studio performance as its base structure. B2D possesses a madness rooted in an active practice of breaking the rules.

B2D powers, in part, their unique grindtrain through the uncanny ability to inject barbed melody into their relentless riffcraft. Much in the same way you might hear a chorus-focused band do, primary throat Anders Bakke (She Said Destroy) breaks his burping, barking, and bleating character enough to croak out shredded but discernable refrains about important subject matters—you know, odes to maintaining long hair in the face of aging (“My Hair Will Be Long Until Death”) and how we owe it to bassist Mika Martinussen to mosh to his bright and booming low-end rumbles (“Mosh for Mika”).4 And pulling from the whimsical and experimental nature of Laat maar, B2D breaks away from grind altogether for brief passages to weave a celebratory and sunny post-tinged art rock chanting into their works (“Dying the Dream”) or dreamy intros that glisten with post-rock energy before thrusting forth with distorted mayhem (“Minus Och Minus Blir Minus Och Minus”).

In steps that remain true to an ever-rebellious form, B2D pushes a borderline intangible humor alongside side-swipes at heavy metal amongst their frayed and manically stitched sprint-show tapestry. Opener “Dalbane” functions both as a silly pun—the title itself being part of the expression for roller coaster in Norwegian (“berg-og-dal-bane”), the part that just means coaster, as Bakke exclaims “No more berg my friends, dalbane until the end!”—alongside one the guitarists’ best Kerry King impression through an audibly popping sweep run and ascending squeaky pick massacre. And shamelessly twisting the iconic refrain of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” all to fit Sunrise’s accepting of aging narrative, B2D uses “We’re Not Gonna Make It” to provide a fake out crescendo complete with a quick, arena-bluesy rock lick to close.

Sunrise’s quirks can quickly charm or fall flat, but thankfully B2D cares very little to whether their quips land in comedy, mosh mania, or unsatisfied customer. Newcomers to this oddball grind world may find themselves equally mesmerized and breath-challenged with each sharp turn blast-to-skank, overly twanged tremolo scurry, and taint-tingling bass splurge, as if presented with a platter of dipped and drizzled chocolate truffles—each bite will be too much but you’ll take another dozen anyway. Repeat, tooth-rotted speed-fiends may catch the intentional, or otherwise, fleeting riff references, the memories of a past once ground revisited with new and poorly aging eyes. It’s an impossible task for Beaten to Death to ever recapture the lightning of their less middle-aged outings. And though these Norwegian grind warriors claim to be aging with the grace of a khaki-adorned grandfather in a beatdown pit, Sunrise over Rigor Mortis rows into the rising sun with enough muscle for the return back home—and a day or week or month well-spent nursing an ailing back, stiff neck, and frozen shoulders.

Rating: 4.0/5.0


Show 4 footnotes

  1. Cry about it. – Dolph
  2. We certainly had a hard time keeping up the Facebook post we made regarding Six Feet Under’s newest. I blame the robots.
  3. Through a partnership with Esagoya records, it seems they’ve made a recent drop in Japan.
  4. Waddle, waddle!
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