Man Must Die – The Pain Behind it All Review

Bursting onto the extreme metal scene in the mid ’00s with a strong trio of albums, underrated Scottish band Man Must Die has long been a reliable death metal act, despite a decade-plus of sporadic output and questions over whether the band would remain active. 2019’s Gagging Order EP showed much-needed signs of life in the band’s revamped ranks, leading to their first LP in a decade, fifth album, The Pain Behind it All. Core duo of vocalist Joe McGlynn and guitarist Alan McFarland glue together a line-up featuring three members who joined the Man Must Die ranks in 2017 and 2018. Despite subtle shifts and increased refinement, the Man Must Die formula remains alive and well, this occasion featuring a more measured, mature approach to their frenetic, hate-fueled assaults, where slick modern death collides with tech and hardcore elements.

The Pain Behind it All is unmistakably Man Must Die, while representing a new weathered chapter in the career of the Scottish underdogs. Despite the smoothing of the raw, grindy aesthetics and insane speeds of The Human Condition, or career highpoint, No Tolerance for Imperfection, the refined, seasoned incarnation of the band still rages hard, the writing is top-notch, and Man Must Die retain their toughened, uncompromising disposition and killer riffs. Their airtight brand of modern death boils with trademark tension, anger and energy. The belligerent hate songs feature hooky, incisive riffing, propulsive tempos, and McGlynn’s deathly barks, growls and gruff melodic variations.

Speed remains a key weapon of choice, however, as evidenced on lead single “The Pain Behind it All,” Man Must Die demonstrate a more measured approach, as forceful currents of eerie melody weave through the song’s moody textures and crunchy groove-laced bite. While initially seeming an odd choice as single, the well-crafted piece is a grower, showcasing an experimental and mature angle, breaking up the relentless attack of thrashy, blast-beaten extreme metal. Melody is not an unusual tool for Man Must Die, yet there is a little more nuance and versatility compared to previous offerings. Man Must Die are renowned for their speed, aggression and overall intensity, so despite the more refined edges and increased melodic dabbling, The Pain Behind it All packs a wallop on a lean, muscular album. There are no significant weaknesses bar a couple of short interludes to break up the in-your-face attack. “Patterns in the Chaos” kicks the album into gear in signature style, boasting a burly streetwise attitude, blistering speed, sharp riffing, and a hooky, dynamic core. Man Must Die’s unique personality, intense impassioned delivery and workman-like extreme metal is kindred spirits with underground toilers Misery Index.

A handful of cut-above tunes highlight a taut, punchy package, such as the dubiously titled “Clickhate,” a song lacking in lyrical subtlety, yet excelling with its devastating delivery, escalating tension, and hate anthem chorus. “Bring Me the Head of the King” and closer “Who Goes There/I.F.F” lean into the band’s razor-wire thrash/melodeath tropes and technical flair with ripping results, including touches of the increased melodicism. The über tight, technically proficient musicianship remains as vital as ever. In particular, drummer Tony Corio’s performance is worthy of high praise. Corio’s blazingly fast, technical drumming effortlessly propels the album’s speedy, complex core, while the multiple tempo variations, nasty grooves, and slower passages demonstrate his craftier fills and patterns. Qualms are relatively minor. The album bubbles with the band’s sustained intensity, though every so often, the craving for the unhinged edge of their earlier work sparks up, while McGlynn’s largely decipherable vocals brim with passion and sincerity but occasionally highlight some heavy-handed lyricism.

Time will tell where The Pain Behind it All sits within Man Must Die’s underappreciated yet extremely impressive discography. There are hints of greatness to match some of their prior work, such as barnstorming predecessor Peace was Never an Option, and a few tracks that fall short of that higher level. However, age has not wearied their pissed-off attitude, the songs are potent and as angry as an agitated Haggis McHaggis. Importantly, Man Must Die has crafted subtle refinements and variations to their long-established sound, without diluting their trademark hardened edge and ferocity. Throw in a vibrant, punchy, and dynamic production job and The Pain Behind it All signals a powerful, adventurous, and most welcome return from Man Must Die.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Distortion Music Group
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 17th, 2023

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