In the time span between Beyond Creation‘s 2011 debut The Aura and now, one would argue they’ve already made their way to the forefront of the technical death metal genre. Non-stop touring around the world in addition to word of mouth has brought their uniquely progressive brand of tech death to a well-deserved spotlight, and with just one album they have easily joined the big leagues as it is. But considering the lofty expectations set by The Aura, does Earthborn Evolution hold water?
Put simply, yes. Yes, yes, yes and yes. Listening through it for the umpteenth time, it’s hard to believe this album even exists. Earthborn Evolution consists of the absolute best elements of tech death taken to the next level through the band’s progressive inclinations; melodic and crushing, with clever hooks left and right that still manage to be mind-numbingly heavy at the end of the day. Beyond Creation had teased four whole tracks prior to this album’s release, but listening to Earthborn Evolution all the way through in order is something else entirely. It is cohesive, it is heavy, and it is absolutely masterful. This is easily the defining tech death album of the year – packed with incredible musicianship and songwriting, but also a sense of fun. A complaint oftentimes lodged against the tech death genre is that any sense of humanity is lost underneath the robotic technicality the genre espouses, but Beyond Creation’s sophomore effort honestly comes off as four talented musicians having a great time putting together music they love without bending over backwards to meet some preconceived imaginings of grandeur. It feels organic, it feels human, and it is a joy to listen to.
In the guitar department, Simon Girard and Kevin Chartré manage to rip through riffs technical as all hell yet tasteful in every sense of the world, and the result is mind-bending. It is immediately clear that they have stepped up their game in the three years between The Aura and this record. No single primary influence pervades their synchronized chops, yet flavours from all ends of the metal spectrum can be heard; stylish jazz fusion solos evoking the work of Animals as Leaders, lightning fast riffs reminiscent of Obscura‘s brand of tech death, and atmospheric, monstrously dissonant figures that would make Luc Lemay of Gorguts proud. Girard continues to impressively handle vocal duties as well – his blend of rough, imposing gutturals and piercing shrieks remains largely unchanged from the formula he worked with on the previous record, which is not at all a bad thing. Even then, he knows when to step back and let the music shine; a surprisingly large portion of Earthborn Evolution is instrumental, but that choice makes sense in the context of all the technical mayhem going on in each song.
Of particular note is how well the songs have been structured – they build upon themselves impressively, and not a single moment feels wasted or extraneous throughout the record. This is tech death that is memorable from first note to last. Each successive heavy sequence brings with it a powerful sense of sheer size and presence, but with an added layer of finesse and top-notch musicianship on top. Even then, Beyond Creation still do clearly enjoy occasionally experimenting with their sound – the masterpiece that is ‘Theatrical Delirium’ as well as the stellar, slow-burning title track consist of one surprise after the other without coming across as some kind of forced genre-bending for its own sake.
Handling bass duties once again is Dominic “Forest” Lapointe, who needs little introduction; his fretless bass wizardry is famously unparalleled, bringing out elements reminiscent of Cynic and Obscura interspersed with his own unique flavour. His playing is at once commanding yet complementary to the chaos happening at large, as he weaves in and out of augmenting impossibly heavy riffs and dancing masterful lead lines over them. Philippe Boucher does a great job holding down the percussive end, supporting the heavier parts of the album with immense precision; however, he truly shines on the clean passages interspersed throughout Earthborn Evolution, underscoring them with dexterity and nuance. If, however, there is one single complaint to be found on this album, it’s that there are very occasionally cleaner sequences with blastbeats underneath them. Hearing said parts was honestly somewhat jarring at first listen, even if that ultimately ceases to be a problem a few listens later and is easily overlooked by how spectacular the rest of the album is.
This review may perhaps appear to be a little on the more overenthusiastic side, but for good reason – this album is the perfect marriage of tech death with progressive death metal elements. Beyond Creation have essentially taken the sound they burst onto the scene with and near-perfected it. Fans of pretty much any genre of extreme metal will find lots to love in Earthborn Evolution, and it will likely find a comfortable home amongst the other masterworks of tech death that Quebec has put forth in the past decades.
Beyond Creation’s Earthbound Evolution gets…