Beaten To Death – Xes And Strokes

PARAMEDICS!!!!!!!!

Can there ever be a more apt name for a band than for Norwegian grindcore abusers Beaten To Death. From the moment the first blasted note rifles up the artillery to the wasted devastation left by the end of the crushingly intense experience their name is exactly how one feels. Brutal, relentless and completely vindictive Xes And Strokes shows no mercy but and a big but, Beaten To Death offer much more beneath their avalanche of crippling intent to make a debut album that hits that deliciously tender sweet spot, well it is tender after this quintet has finished.

Beaten to Death consisting of vocalist Anders Bakke (She Said Destroy), guitarists Martin Rygge and Tommy Hjelm  (both from Insense), drummer Christian “Bartender” Svendsen (Tsjuder, The Cumshots), and bassist Mika Martinussen, is far removed from the members ‘day jobs’, replacing the mighty technical intensity of Insense and She Said Destroy with no holds grindcore punishment. As mentioned the band does not just numb the senses but they also tease and tantalise them beneath their assault with scorched melodies and distracting grooves. Xes And Strokes is a ferocious maelstrom of venomous aggression, obliterating riffs, and incapacitating intensity, it is chaotic and often seemingly undefined but scrutiny and repeat plays shows it is carefully and wonderfully structured without detriment to its instinctive raw energy. Though merely nineteen minutes long across its nine tracks the release is a stunning violation veined with irresistible hooks and warped riffs.

Pointless Testament’ throws the first kick to the guts with an arsenal of unrepentant cruel riffs, senses battering rhythms and a beckoning groove, its brief stay leading into the brilliant ‘Winston Churchill’. A toxic bassline fuels the track as scorched guitars scythe across the ear and the bile spewing vocals rupture everything in sight. Already one knows what they are going to get but at the same time are thrown plenty of unpredictable elements and surprising moves. Fusing the likes of Brutal Truth, Fuck The Facts, and Down I Go, the sound is wonderfully excruciating at times and in other moments veined with siren like distorted melodies that make the whole experience blissful.

A Rolling Stones like groove that permeates the blistering heaviness of ‘On Running’ and the rebellious spiteful melodies that spike the impressive ‘3-2-1, It´s On!’ give two more diverse and rewarding bittersweet tracks to concrete the growing knowledge of how fine an album Beaten To Death has unleashed. Often with grindcore releases tracks blend into each other, their brief and violent stays indistinguishable due to the unrelenting speed they are thrust forth. With Xes And Strokes that is never a factor, yes most of the songs barely touch two minutes and pummel to equal merciless effect but each offers something varied and clear beneath the sonic war they rage to keep the album intriguing and fresh.

Xes And Strokes is bestial and nasty, malicious in the extreme but the likes of the flesh stripping ‘Cat Olympics’, the excellent ‘Groundhog Day’ with its itchy melodies and scathing bass sound, and the irresistibly acidulous title track just destroy and feed the senses to the equal effect.  The album is painfully raw and viscerally hostile but its corrosive intensity is tempered by those mesmeric, at times mischievous grooves and melodies. This is a must have for all grindcore fans especially if you are looking for a different take on the genre.

RingMaster 30/01/2012

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The Fallen Divine – The Binding Cycle

The debut album from Norwegian progressive extreme metalers The Fallen Divine would have undoubtedly have left the senses marvelling and feasting on its undeniable impressive sounds and creativity, unfortunately it had the misfortune of being given attention and assessed straight after the new release from similar veined band Gigan, arguably the album of the year. Despite that there is no hiding or missing the fact that The Binding Cycle is a rather special and pleasing release that shows yet another band with the admirable skill of bringing harsh senses threatening sounds into an affair with melodically stunning and skilled majesty.

Formed in 2009 the quintet from Oslo first drew attention to their strong sounds with their EP The Eternal Past and Future in 2010 plus shows throughout Norway with the likes of Kvelertak and Insense. The band’s addictive blend of death, black and symphonic metal, plus elements like folk and progressive metal brought into their own distinctive colourful vision mesmerising more and more eager audiences. Debut album The Binding Cycle sees the combination of vocalist Magnus Kvist who also provides the keys, guitarists Magnus Haugo and Markus Charras, bassist Christoffer Wig, and Alex Stebbing on drums, take their music forward to show the band have progressed in the short time between releases to reach remarkable levels in songwriting and its realisation.

The Binding Cycle is the result of extensive hard work with The Fallen Divine spending hour upon hour refining  the sound that was to make the album an impressive addition to this year’s releases. Summer 2011 saw the band enter the studio with Andy Larocque of King Diamond fame responsible for mixing and production. Consisting of eight vibrant and stirring songs the resulting album is testament to their deliberate care and intention and a declaration that the band is one of the most vital emerging forces in metal.

Opening track ‘Dissension’ straight away reveals the might of the band and their creativity, dawning on a melodic atmospheric wave it soon unleashes a harsh urgent black attack before settling into an emotive symphonic black metal flow. Technical grinds and progressive interplay veins the song and though it drives hard throughout, the mellower melodic flavours engage wonderfully. It is like being serenaded by the blackest beast with an angel’s heart, the blend and switch between the two aspects seamless.

Vocally Kvist delivers his strong lyrics with a menacing raspy growl and deliberate venomous intent enforcing the dark intrusive sound against the calming melodic swells. The contrast and union between both is impressive and extremely well balanced as shown with ‘Fire Lights the Night (Self Ignition)’, a near perfect track that plays with an emotion and sound that is impossible to not immerse completely in and ignore all outside stimuli. This is the best track but with the likes of the touching yet aggressive ‘Patterns Through Eternity’, ‘Replenished’ with its eager urgency and folk metal melodic weaves, and the grand epic feel and creative skill of ‘The Binding Cycle’, there is only a continual high on the album. The third of these three a shining beacon for the talent of the band and the thoughtful and caring attentiveness the band give to their craft and music.

If there is one small element where the band do not quite hit the right note on the album it is in the obvious ability and skilled play from bassist Wig being veiled and at times hidden behind the vast imposing sounds, which really is a complaint one can put at Larocque’s feet. Glimpses and quieter melodic moments show he is a great musician but within the strong forceful intensity of the album the other aspects and instruments suppress his lines too much.

Overall The Binding Cycle is a masterful and deeply satisfying album and The Fallen Divine a band that will surely be a major force in the years ahead, right now they are one of the artists leading the way in creating essential melodic extreme metal.

Ringmaster 02/12/2011

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