Death Tribe – Beyond the Red Light District: A Canal Experiment Review

Occasionally, events come along that completely shatter the way we view the world. For the people of Beirut, Lebanon, one of those occurred on August 4th, 2020, when ammonium nitrate, stored at the port, exploded, killing 207 people, injuring 7,500, and leaving approximately 300,000 homeless. Those who were there initially thought a nuclear bomb had exploded, so powerful was the blast. This was a crippling blow for a nation already ravaged by civil war and endemic political corruption. This disaster serves as the nexus for progressive death metal band, Death Tribe’s, sophomore album, Beyond the Red Light District: A Canal Experiment (BRLD:CE). We’ve seen tragedies being used as inspiration for death metal in the past (ahem, Cytotoxin, ahem). Is this as successful?

Death Tribe is the project of leading man, Anthony Kaoteon, a Lebanese citizen by birth who now resides in the Netherlands. Kaoteon was born during civil war and has experienced real oppression his whole life. His music is informed by his experiences, and on the album he rages against climate change, racism, homophobia and political injustice. Those who prefer their metal apolitical should scroll on by: Death Tribe wears its progressive views proudly on its bloodied sleeve, and the band is unconcerned what anonymous folk on the internet think. The music itself is an entertaining mix of death metal, doom, and groove with symphony occasionally added because… reasons. There is also an entire animated movie to accompany the music. While all this ambition is admirable, and the results sometimes very entertaining, the “throw everything and see what sticks” approach has some drawbacks which ultimately harm the album.

First, the good stuff. BRLD:CE is just entertaining as hell to listen to. This is for two reasons: first, Death Tribe’s music is driven by a very real sense of purpose, which provides momentum when the melodies threaten to sag. Whether railing against corporations exploiting the poor, or the destruction of the planet, there is a righteous anger and determination that power the collection. This energy is paired with some outstanding riffs, and what is great metal if not furious anger and headbangable riffs working side by side?1 “Black Out” sets the tone with a groovy, thrashy melody that will lodge in your brain immediately, before Death Tribe shifts to a more blackened sound for “Let There Be No Man.” By the midpoint, however, there is a clear pivot towards groove and doom. This is one of the few collections this year where the second half is stronger than the first. Closers, “The World Is Sick And Dying” and “We Are Death Tribe,” are excellent and emphasize the sheer range of the band.

The primary downside of BRLD:CE is that while the music is linked thematically, it’s often somewhat disjointed stylistically. The collection lurches between thrash (“Blackout”), groove (“Crematorium”) and doom (“We Are Death Tribe”) with all the elegance of a back-alley shake-down. The individual songs hold up fine, but the shift between them is so abrupt, and the songs so different, that no clear identity is discernible. The “more is more” approach also becomes wearying at times, with some of the symphonic instrumentation, in particular, feeling intrusive rather than organic (the violins on “Making a Murderer” just add needless noise to an already over-stuffed song). Finally, Death Tribe isn’t exactly subtle with its political message. Kaoteon is, I believe, completely sincere (he basically sends all proceeds from album sales to the Lebanese Red Cross), but this sincerity sometimes comes off as preachy, which may alienate some listeners.

Overall, though, BRLD:CE is ballsy as hell, and I thoroughly appreciate that. Death Tribe have taken a tragedy and used it as an inspiration to address very real issues facing very real humans in 2021. Importantly, like all good rebellion, the band is railing against the man, not the marginalized. Neither the message nor the music is subtle, but if that’s what you wanted, you probably wouldn’t be reading a blog whose lead writer is a giant ape.2 While this cocktail doesn’t work all the time, and the band could do with stuffing fewer sub-genres into the mix, there are enough great riffs and interesting ideas to make this a more than worthy ode to a terrible tragedy.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Blood Blast Distribution
Releases Worldwide: July 23rd, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Nothing, Doom! It is nothing if not that! – Holdeneye
  2. Giant GREAT Ape! – Steel Ape
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