There are certain expectations that come with album titles. Steve Roden‘s Forms Of Paper undoubtedly carries a different connotation than, say, Behold! The Monolith’s Architects of the Void; thoughts and ideas of what is contained within – and the overall temperament of an album – differ wildly from release to release based solely on the choice of title. What, then, is to be made of an album like the newest Beastwars release, The Death Of All Things? Combined with beautiful cover art courtesy of esteemed artist Nick Keller, without even listening to this, it’s clear that what within paints a grim, fiery vision of the apocalypse.
Does the third release from this New Zealand stoner metal band hold up, though, under the microscope? Grand, sweeping titles and art are all well and good, but a pretty package does not an album make. Beastwars has had an interesting path as a band: their self-titled debut was a good, not great, release that covered the major slow metal bases and threw in some interesting grunge rock inspired passages, but their sophomore album – typically the release that catapults bands to new heights – was somewhat of a dud, and although it had some good tracks, didn’t really see the band gain the success one would have wanted for them. Having struck out once, though, Beastwars is ready to step up to the plate again, and although The Death Of All Things isn’t a grand slam, it’s an in-field home run, good enough in relation to its context to be worth checking out by any fan of the genre.
As with all stoner metal, the main question when approaching an album is nothing more than “is it easy listening?” Sure, there are other qualities that come into play, and that’s obviously not the depth by which an album should be graded, but, let’s face it: stoner metal is what you put on when you wanna just rock out and have a good time, and Beastwars succeeds finely in this category. All of the tracks, which run around 4 or 5 minutes, save for one – no 10+ minute jamfest odysseys here, sorry folks – are tight, precise, and hard-hitting; the thick, crunchy tone of the guitars are perfectly juxtaposed against the drums, which sound just slightly muffled and hazy, the bass is audible in the lower end of the mix and sits nicely as a rock on which the bands build their tunes, and topping it all off is the excellent vocal work. The vocalist of Beastwars has a very distinct style to him: an animalistic, impassioned half-yelling, half-singing wail that does a great job of carrying each track, the vocal performance is, without a doubt, the highlight of the album. The riffs smack of bands like Kyuss or Black Cobra, synthesizing a groovy alt-rock influence into the mix that helps both differentiate and improve their sound; there’s not another band that sounds quite like the mix of hard rock and crawling metal that Beastwars brings to the table. Everything works together to paint a picture that is as nihilistic and destructive as the title and art imply, and the music and themes do come together smoothly into a package that is both enjoyable and dark.
For what it’s worth, The Death Of All Things is a good album, but not a great one. Perhaps not living up to the grandiose themes of the title, this is still an agreeable, engaging listen, though perhaps not one that’s going to see many replays outside of a handful of dedicated fans. On par with their debut, this is an impassioned and fiery stoner metal release that is sure to see Beastwars as a force gaining traction in the eyes of many genre fans, but not as a band that’s likely to join the pantheon of the greats anytime soon going off of the relatively tame strength of their third effort.