Seems it was just yesterday when Beyond Creation emerged from the ever-bountiful wellspring of Quebecois technical death metal, fully formed, boasting an impressive level of technicality and confidence on 2011 debut The Aura. But 2014 brought a vastly different album in followup Earthborn Evolution, which maintained the core sound the band had established, but took a sharp left turn in the direction of slower, jazzier, and more introspective songwriting. The bass was given even more room to breathe, while The Aura‘s occasional sharp turns into and out of clean instrumental passages made way for more dynamic songs across the board. And so ‘third album syndrome’ kicks in, in that this progression across albums sets up Algorythm as either somehow consolidating these two sounds, from the abrasion of The Aura to the fluidity of Earthborn Evolution, or better yet, potentially marking a further turning point in the band’s work.
So where does Algorythm fall? Its start suggests the former. Opener “Entre Suffrage et Mirage” is vintage Beyond Creation: pummelling riffs, blast beats, and abrasive vocal lines abound. But off the bat, the transitions are noticeably smoother and the songwriting more focused: themes that continues through Algorythm‘s runtime. Instead of further experimenting with their sound as on the preceding album, the band have opted to primarily sharpen their songwriting ability even further, as longer-form songs such as “Surface’s Echoes” and closer “The Afterlife” cleanly glide from one intricate section to another. Even though the sound veers more towards progressive death metal than tech death, the technical chops remain evident throughout, and it’s hard to deny that each individual track is masterfully constructed. New bassist Hugo Doyon-Karout deserves special mention here, having now filled the large shoes left behind one of Quebec’s most celebrated fretless bassists in Dominic “Forest” Lapointe. Doyon-Karout artfully weaves his fretless lines through thick low-end riffs and rapid-fire moments alike, and gives every bit the excellent performance worthy of his new position.
That isn’t to say the band don’t have further tricks up their sleeves, however. Over the course of the album, Beyond Creation do manage to occasionally venture into newer territory. Take the tribal-sounding drum solo in “Entre Suffrage et Mirage” or the waltz-influenced section in “Ethereal Kingdom” — both standout moments that manage to elevate the impact of their respective songs, but without necessarily overstaying their welcome. While such experimentation is limited, Algorythm still strikes a healthy balance between the existing sound shown on Earthborn Evolution and hints of something new, and avoids committing too hard to the latter when it does arise. Perhaps one might be left wishing the band had gone further at times, but it’s still hard to fault how well-executed those moments are at the end of the day.
The one issue with Algorythm, however, is its pacing. “Entre Suffrage et Mirage” may have been a standard tech death barn-burner, but the following three tracks are all on the slower-paced, grandiose end of the spectrum. Of course, they boast heavier moments and blast beat sections all the same — this is a death metal album after all, right? Yet it seems that in being content to move further towards the progressive death metal spectrum à la Rivers of Nihil, Beyond Creation opt for more measured guitar lines (including a reduced emphasis on guitar solos) and overall song arrangements to the point where the pace becomes almost too predictable.
By contrast, consider Earthborn Evolution‘s title track: an immediate, indubitable classic, and perhaps one of the most stunning tracks to have ever come out of the Quebec scene in recent years. What made that song as striking as it was, however, was that the album itself gave the title track its room to breathe, using the slower paced jazz moments as a well-timed break from the preceding tech death numbers. With Algorythm, on the other hand, any one of “Surface’s Echoes”, “Ethereal Kingdom”, and the title track could have easily been the centrepiece of the album. Instead, having all of them follow one another seems to do each individual track a disservice; plus, not helping matters in that regard is the amount of time spent building up to each of those songs individually. Amidst the constant abrasion of tech death albums, quieter moments can go a long way in helping pace the album and relieving tension: offering a sort of temporary negative space for a given listener to recollect themselves in. Instead, what’s here leaves the first half of the album somewhat uneven of a listen.
But does this flaw completely sink the album? Not at all. Following the “Battle of Chamdo”-esque interlude is where Algorythm throws a quick one-two punch with some of its best material. “In Adversity” starts off with an Archspire nod before tearing through time and space over its relatively short runtime, while lead single “The Inversion” is an instant tech death classic in the vein of “Omnipresent Perception”, additionally sporting a delightful clean interlude in its second half. Still, one cannot help but feel that placing either of those songs earlier in the album would have helped balance out the overall experience further. This feels like a minor gripe, considering how well written each individual song is, but it still detracts from the overall listening experience in a way Beyond Creation were notably careful to avoid in the past.
Finally, “Binomial Structures” is a decent instrumental to set up the end of the album, although it maybe overstays its welcome a tad compared to previous instrumental efforts like “Abstrait Dialog” and The Aura‘s “Chromatic Horizon”. Nevertheless, the song provides a suitable buildup to the excellent closer “The Afterlife”, whose ending effortlessly incorporates a symphonic angle to the band’s sound briefly reminiscent of Spawn of Possession‘s “Apparition” — a combination that provides a sufficiently dramatic note for the album to end on, and hopefully promises even more experimentation on album number four.
In all, Algorythm continues in the Beyond Creation style of combining jaw-dropping musical proficiency with fluid songwriting, and any fan of death metal albums that go above and beyond the base norms of the genre will find lots to both love and repeatedly return to here. As an overall package, however, its awkward pacing is sometimes hard to ignore. Regardless, there are still extremely few musicians that can sound like Beyond Creation, and their third record remains the work of a band that are constantly pushing themselves towards the limits of what’s possible within death metal’s confines. While the album is not perfect as a whole, the individual material on Algorythm still manages to be among the strongest death metal offerings this year, and is highly recommended listening all the same.
Algorythm is out October 12th via Season of Mist, and is available for pre-order in physical and digital formats on the band’s Bandcamp page.