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.