For eight years, the Canadian tech-death Megazord of Beneath The Massacre have watched their countrymen and neighbours hit the (relative) mainstream in metal with varying degrees of success. It’s a hot product. Having the most technically challenging, mind-bending material and implementing it into the most extreme forms of metal isn’t new, but it’s definitely popular. So when one of the genre’s Platinum members decides to cash in their retirement and reemerge with a brand new half-hour of fretboard bedlam, the world takes notice. Like a wary parent before a long road trip, this is your obligatory check whether or not you’ve been to the bathroom before we depart.
Beneath The Massacre’s last record before their all-too-long hiatus was a significantly devastating hallmark of 2012’s release calendar. Incongruous played out like a hundred different end-of-the-world scenarios, widdling from one end of the guitar neck to the other and hitting every note and combination in between, making the record one of the heaviest releases of the early days of the decade.
Fearmonger, the band’s first record in eight god damn years, is even heavier. Chalk it up to the time taken between releases or possibly the revitalisation of a new percussive bombardier on board, but it’s a fact. It might not be typically headbangable, due to the whirlwind of sweeps and percussive shifts, but there are definitely moments in here where a gurning, swinging grimace is appropriate.
When it all becomes a bit too much, “Hidden in Plain Sight” or “Autonomous Mind” apply a cool, refreshing remedy to nuclear-blasted skin with some of the finest plate-shifting breakdowns heard in some time; the latter track is surely destined to become a new live favourite. The lethal proficiency of the blasting and precision cymbal work from Anthony Barone (a stellar addition to the roster) cranks down more than one gear and turns the kit into a hammering block for thick sticks and sore cymbals. The ability to switch to grooves like this from seemingly endless passages of virtuosic guitar work is something the band have always utilised, but it’s never fit quite as tightly as on Fearmonger.
It’s great when things slow down and get ignorant for a time, but it would be obscene to disregard the energy-sapping, string-shredding guitar work on the record. If, like most, you’re a layman when it comes to technical terms and musical terminology, things like “sick guitar gurgles” and “mad little sweepy bits” have to stand in for the appropriate ones. Fearmonger has the sickest guitar gurgles, the most maddening guitar sweeps, and a positively humiliating level of energy from start to finish – sweaty palms, elevated heart rate, and restless legs all common symptoms of post-Fearmonger sickness.
While obtusely aggressive and domineering, the record never feels like the band are being extreme just for the sake of being extreme. Sure, there are times when it becomes nigh on impossible to follow what’s happening, but there’s always the reprieve of a crunchy groove or stop-start machine-gun drum battery to attempt (and fail) air-drumming alongside. Beneath The Massacre arrive back on the scene knowing fine well that many have attempted to emulate their particular stank, but none have achieved it. Fearmonger should serve as a not-so-gentle reminder that the Canadian kings of sizzling, brutal, and technical death metal are back. Long live the King, baby.
Fearmonger is available Feb. 28 via Century Media Records.