When reviewing albums, we often talk about cohesiveness or flow. When using these terms, we’re usually referring not only to the way in which the tracks on the album are arranged but their internal structure, how riff feeds into bridge feeds into solo and then back again. Why is this so important? Music is a kind of suspension of disbelief, metal especially; for the duration of an album, in case bands are interested in keeping you around for an album, music vies for your attention. It’s goal is to keep you occupied or rather a certain part of your brain occupied. Even when you’re performing some other task, music is there to put you in a mood or a state of mind. To do that, it has to remain fluid; any awkward breaks in its structure give you time to remember all your other worries or to simply change the track to a different band.
Thus, when this kind of flow is maintained, music which isn’t necessarily innovative or groundbreaking can become enjoyable and trans-formative. This is the main source of power fueling MICAWBER‘s Beyond the Reach of Flame. If you’re a fan of progressive death metal or thrash, you won’t be immensely surprised by the elements presented on the album. Take the title track for example; the harsh vocals move pleasingly between the lead role, backing shrieks and the odd gang choir style, reminding us of early Lamb of God. This comparison, while it seems a bit odd, will serve us when considering parts of the guitars as well, as there’s plenty of thick groove present on the album. However, by the time the solo arrives, it’s clear that the pendulum swings much closer to the realms of progressive death than to the styling of groove metal.
But here’s the thing that will really keep you coming back to this release: it just doesn’t stop and it never misses a beat. Everything about Beyond the Reach of Flame is powerfully tight, engineered to move the listener from the one passage to the next. Smart callbacks, plenty of hooks on both the vocals and the guitars, resounding production on the bass, and a careful attention to lows and highs just keeps the album going. While we have you at the title track, listen to how pleasingly the next track, “The Starless Sky”, beings. It works off of the fade-out of the title track, feeding you first a melodic and epic riff to complement the riff that just ended. Quickly though, it steps up the energy and injects more of the thrash elements that are present on the album, in drumming and in riff style.
“The Starless Sky” is an aggressive, high octane track that ends on a massive vocal note, a note which serves to beautifully set the stage for the following “Icon of Extinction” and its loud “blegh” which opens it. And from there, the hits don’t stop coming. Yes, you’ve heard a lot of this before. Yes, some of the melodies and note choices play directly to the genre’s tropes. It’s technical, fast paced, blackened at times, injected with plenty of thrash fuel, and it handles those influences just as you would expect. But you’ll coming back for more because the production is on point and, most of all, the album just has this immense flow to it. It’s fun, it’s self aware and it seems to uncannily know exactly how and when and why you wanted that transition to sound, proceeding to execute it exactly like you thought, only more awesome. Long story short, Beyond the Reach of Flame is a trusty handyman, a professional who knows their job and isn’t afraid to perform it to an impressive level of expertise. What moves it plays, it plays safe but it plays all the right moves.
Beyond the Reach of Flame sees release on Prosthetic Records on May 25th. You can head on over here to pre-order it.