Who would have thought that an icy wasteland would be good for the music community, it seems ice inspires insane speeds and death metal! A few weeks back, in my review of Kontinuum’s Earth Blood Magic, I commented on the metal kick-assery that’s making its way out of Iceland (and in particular Reykjavík), and at the time of their review another band aggressively caught my attention, doggedly refusing to let my mind rest! In true shit-happens style I ended up missing their release date and now you have a retrospective review of Beneath’s Enslaved by Fear [I feel shame at my tardiness].
These metallers rose from the burning embers of some of Iceland’s top metal bands, including the thrashy and death driven Sororicide, Changer and Diabolus, and the blackened death Atrum (to name but a few) and in terms of Beneath’s style, they offer a noteworthy blend of death and technical death combined with themes of anti-religion, society, hate, death, blood and gore. Being that Enslaved by Fear has been a long time in the making, with recording starting as far back as 2009 (with the length of time it’s taken to make this album, I half expected a funeral doom album), their EP release early in 2010 and that the album was mixed by Swedish studio Dugout Productions, who produced Meshuggah’s Kolos and In Flames Sounds of a Playground Fading, how could I not harbor some anticipation for Beneath’s debut release!
First thing you’re going to notice about this album is the album art! [Insert subliminal message here… Buy the fucking album!] Barring In Mourning’s The Weight of Oceans, I have to say this album cover is one of my favourites from this year’s releases. The Album art was handled by freelance artist, illustrator Raymond Swanland who’s responsible for science fiction and fantasy art for the likes of Magic the Gathering, World of Warcraft and Aliens vs Predator – not too shabby right?
Enslaved by Fear opens up with a crusher of a track entitled “As Gods Walk the Earth” and in terms of Beneath’s blend of death and tech death, while what they are doing has been done before in some way, shape or form by the likes of Meshuggah, Decapitated, Visceral Throne, Dawn of Demise or Dying Fetus for example, this track hits you with no holds barred death brutality, odd time signatures, disturbing rhythms, demented riffs and an odd meandering guitar solo that defies sounding stale. Gísli Sigmundsson has a vocal style that bears some small similarities to that of Pekka Kokko of Kalmah and Mikael Åkerfeldt once again during his Bloodbath era, but other than slight similarities, Gísli’s death style vocals are enough set apart and satisfyingly raw, guttural and rasping and yet somehow they still remain intelligible that when combined with Beneath’s well written lyrics they’re a winning combination.
The remaining tracks on the album follow a similar flow and style, barring “Heretics” and “Monolith”. “Heretics” is an odd little minute and a half instrumental journey that starts off feeling quite melodic and sane but slowly works its way up to complete and utter madness – I can’t really understand though why “Heretics” is a separate track and not just part of the following track “Bloodlust”. While each track on this album has something that draws me like – well – a butchers knife to its next victim it’s the distorted rhythm interwoven with the raw epic guitar solos of “Monolith” that leave me feeling completely gutted as the track draws to a close and on more than one occasion I’ve just kept the track on repeat play.
Enslaved by Fear is a well produced album with strong vocals, lyrics and instrumentation and I can’t say that there is a single track that hasn’t worn its way into the cold, dark recesses of my heart. If you want more angry on your playlist, this is it.